As we delve deeper into autumn, many gardeners will find themselves with a surplus of fallen leaves. One great way to use that free natural resource is by gathering the fallen leaves and making leaf mold. You may have never heard of it before, but leaf mold is an excellent way to make your own growing material and to maintain fertility in your growing areas. Let’s take a look at what exactly it is.
What is leaf mold?
Leaf mold is a valuable soil conditioner that is made by letting leaves decompose into a crumbly, friable mulch or potting ingredient.
How to make leaf mold
Leaf mold is quite simple to make. All you must do is collect the fallen leaves from your yard and place them in a leaf bin.
Leaf mold can be made using any deciduous leaves, though be aware that some varieties like sycamore and horse chestnut take significantly longer to break down. Oak, beech, and hornbeam leaves are some of the best options for making leaf mold.
When it comes to choosing a bin for your leaves, a basic mesh bin works well. You can also make your own bin by using branches as stakes to hold up reclaimed chicken wire fencing.
Make sure that while you’re placing the gathered leaves in the bin that the contents of the bin are well ventilated so that the air can circulate. During very wet periods, place a cover over the bins, and during dry periods, water the leaves a little bit to keep them moist. Outside of this, there is very little to do—just wait for nature to do its work and keep an eye out for weeds, being careful to remove any that spring up.
Using leaf mold
Once a year has passed, the leaves should be broken down into a crumbly material that you can use as mulch for mature plants in your garden. If you wait another year, then the end result should be an effective soil conditioner that you can make use of in your vegetable patch or as an ingredient in homemade potting mixes.
If your leaf mold was left for two years, you can use it to add fertility to your polytunnel or as top-dressing for areas from where you harvested summer crops so that you can prepare for overwintering crops.
This year, instead of seeing fallen leaves as an aesthetic nuisance, try to see them as the valuable resource that they are, and use them to maximize the fertility of your garden.