Dealing with Fall Leaves in your yard and garden can be a challenge. But this simple method will let you use those leaves to improve your soil. Turn those leaves into Leaf Mold.
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Dealing with Fall Leaves
For most of the 20 years, we have been gardening our method for dealing with fall leaves has been just tilling them into the soil of our garden beds after first running them over with a lawnmower to shred them up a bit. This adds organic matter to the soil and improves soil structure.
I learned this year from the Master Gardener course that this is not the best practice. Un-decomposed organic matter that is mixed into the soil will temporally tie up the nitrogen in the surrounding soil as the decomposing bacteria uses that nitrogen to complete their job. It is far better to compost the leaves or even better put them in a pile of their own to make Leaf Mold.
Making Leaf Mold
Leaf mold is the end result you get after a couple of years’ worth of decomposition of leaves. Leaf mold is different than compost and has fewer nutrients than compost. Despite that, it makes a fantastic soil amendment and is especially beneficial for crops in the cabbage family and for carrots. We grow a lot of both of those crops so I thought we would give it a try this year.
Here’s what we did.
We have a lot of leaves around Stoney Acres. In fact, we have about 20 trees of varying maturity on our ½-acre lot. All but 3 of those trees are deciduous so we have a lot of leaves. In years past we have had a hard time dealing with them all. Even after tilling a ton into the garden, I have to admit to sending quite a few to the landfill.
Shredding the leaves helps speed things up
This year my aunt gave me a leaf shredder vac that was too big for her to handle anymore. I didn’t like using it for the actual clean up and resorted to a traditional rake. But we used the shredder to clean up all the leaf piles and it worked great for that!
All the leaves from our entire yard were reduced enough to fit in this 3’ x 3’ compost bin. I wanted to create something just for leaves but ended up not having enough time. Maybe I can do something this winter?
It takes time
Now, all we have to do is wait. Leaves are usually broken down mostly by fungi, instead of bacteria. So the process of creating leaf mold is not as quick as compost. These leaves will need to sit for at least a year, maybe two before they are ready to use. I have read that adding some moisture to the pile can help so I will do that on occasion. Mostly though it is just a waiting game. This pile is in an out of the way corner of the yard in a space that would not be used for anything else.
So we will just wait while the leaves decompose and create a great amendment for our soil. This process is also better for the environment. Instead of sending 20 to 30 bags of leaves to the landfill, we will add all that great humus back into our soil.