Updated October 4, 2019. Thanks to the ancient maples, oaks, and other deciduous trees that live on my property, the lawn is now littered with a gazillion leaves. I don’t bag and discard these castings of vermillion and gold. Instead, I turn them into the best soil amendment on earth: Leaf mold!
Leaf mold (or “mould”) is the result of decomposed leaves. It’s light, fluffy, rich, and crumbly. It retains moisture better than peat moss. Added to a garden bed, it transforms even crappy soil into beautiful, fertile loam. And it costs absolutely nothing.
And speaking of crappy soil! When we purchased this property, the ground behind the house was completely paved with asphalt. I removed the asphalt in 2005, and designed a formal rose garden there. The soil was both inert and horribly compacted. But after the annual addition of leaves, that garden today (pictured above, from my attic window) is filled with worms and other soil-making organisms. The plants are happy.
How to Make Leaf Mold
It’s easy to make leaf mold. Just rake your leaves into a pile, and make a hollow in the center to catch rain. Moisture is necessary for decomposition. Two years later you’ll have crumbly, lovely earth.
No room on your property for a big pile of leaves? Then shred the material, just as I do. Shredded leaves can be used immediately. You can till them into the soil, or, if you have a no-till policy (like me), just dump them onto your garden beds as mulch.
How to Use Leaf Mold
If you have raised beds in your kitchen garden, you need only to fill them one time with purchased soil. Thereafter, top off the beds with leaf mold, or with fresh, shredded leaves. I do this annually, and my beds are teeming with worms.
Ah, water-wise. Ever wonder why a forest can survive a drought? It’s because the trees, ferns, and other forest plants are growing in pure leaf mold.
Shredded Leaves Can Be Used Immediately
Now, some of you might be wondering if you can use whole, not-yet-decayed leaves on your garden beds. The answer is no. Whole leaves become matted when wet, and keep moisture from reaching the soil below. But shredded leaves, as I mentioned earlier, can be used immediately.
There are a variety of ways to shred leaves. Several years ago, I purchased a wonderful gadget called The Flowtron Ultimate Leaf Shredder from this online source. It weighs practically nothing. Just plug it in, pour whole leaves into the funnel-shaped top, and out will come a finely-shredded, instantly-usable product. Or, put the leaves into a big bin (such as a garbage can) and attack them with a weed-whacker.
If you have a lawn mower equipped with a bag, you can simply mow over the leaves to shred them. As you work, dump the contents of the bag into a pile, or just empty them directly onto a garden bed. Easy, easy.
Note: If you use the mowing-method, you’ll naturally end up with both grass clippings and leaves. This is not a problem, unless you use chemicals on your lawn.
Hint: Don’t use chemicals on your lawn.
Whether you pile your leaves whole or shred them first, I hope you’ll take advantage of “nature’s mulch.” Leaf mold feeds worms and other soil-builders. It breaks up clay. It holds moisture like nobody’s business. And it’s free!
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