Have you ever heard of Leaf Mold?
It is an amazing way to put your fall leaves to good use in your garden.
You COULD just add your leaves to your compost pile of course.
But if you just pile up the leaves themselves, and let them break down over time, you will have an amazing soil conditioner. You’ll have a great source of organic matter, without messing with nutrient levels. This will improve soil structure, and help with water retention of your soil, which will be good for your containers as well as your garden beds. The beneficial bacteria, earthworms and other soil life will also thank you for helping to improve their habitat. You can also use it as a mulch for your garden too.
While I was at my parents house for my birthday, I decided to rake up all the leaves and start some piles. I experimented with them a bit. My dad’s only rule with them was that I put them out of the way were he couldn’t run them over with the lawnmower. (However, if you run them over with the lawnmower, before piling, they would break down faster)
I stacked some old logs up along the back side to just help contain the pile. The leaves were all from the lawn. I packed this pile down by stepping on it, and probably put the most effort (and leaves) into this one.
The rest of the lawn leaves, with zero packing. I just raked them all up like when I was a kid and wanted to jump in a pile of fall leaves.
These were the leaves and lots of sticks from between a mature stand of poplar and spruce trees. It was rotational summer shelter/grazing area for my horses back in the day And I saw the jackpot of leaves on the ground, and honestly got sick of removing the sticks to put these leaves in the first pile, so I made a separate pile with leaves and sticks in it (holy run on sentance). I am wondering if the sticks will help keep the pile loose and maybe let more air circulate? I don’t know, so we will see.
So because I didn’t contain my piles in a leaf mold cage, my piles may take up to 2 years, possibly longer, hopefully less. I am hoping that by the fall, we will have leaf mold… But I may have to wait until next summer. The reason I did it this way, is because I live a short 2 and a half hour drive away from my parents, so am unable to check on moisture levels and babysit the piles.
I could have also bagged the leaves, moistened them, and poked some holes in the bags. This would keep the moisture more even and help them break down sooner. As a side note, I did put some sod pieces in garbage bags at my house when I was making my new garden beds. Hopefully these will break down fast and I’ll get some awesome dirt over the next few years.
I’ll keep you up to date on the progress of the piles as I see them… Which will probably be sometime in the Summer.
The photo below is a handful of the dirt from under the leaves I raked for pile 3. The soil is so healthy and rich and smells so earthy. It is what I hope my garden soil will look like in a few years.