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Leaf Mold: Gardeners Black Gold


When the trees start displaying their fantastic Fall colors, it a signals to gardeners that is time to prepare compost piles or bins, for the making of mother nature Black Gold, Leaf Mold. 




Leaf mold and mulch is a valuable organic plant loving soil amendment compost. It physically alters the soil so that it becomes spongier, holding both moisture and air. It is a heavenly environment for plant roots and fantastic habitat for soil enriching worms. When applied to the soil surface as mulch, leaf mold prevents extreme fluctuations in soil temperature, keeps the soil surface loose so water penetrates easily, and retains soil moisture by slowing water evaporation. Leaf mold also stimulates biological activity in the soil, creating a microbial environment that helps thwart pests.


A gardener can never have too much!  It can be used mixed into the soil or on top as a mulch.  Substitute leaf mold for peat moss in potted plants. Compost makes all the difference in helping to grow healthy plants – mix in generous amounts to the soil when planting vegetables, as well as trees, shrubs or perennials in the landscape.


The great think about this is you can make a temporary compost pile in the middle of your garden, after growing season, right where you need it.  If you need to contain it, you can make a temporary bin with 3-foot wire fencing.




The 4 steps to making leaf mold compost:


First the Gathering Process. You can’t have too many leaves.  25 bags of leaves will equal a couple of wheel barrels once shredded. Ask your neighbors to contribute, they won’t have to bag them if they choose to drag them with a tarp.  Collect bags that have been put out by the curb. Ask local landscapers, you will be helping to reduce the amount ending up in landfills.  


Keep in mind that not all leaves are created equal.  Fruit trees, Maple, Birch, Ash, and Beech leaves are fantastic compost leaves but oak leaves are very acidic and should be limited to only be 10 to 20% of your total pile.


Second- Shredding.  Whole leave will mat together to make a slimy mess that takes years to decompost, but shredded leaves will breakdown in a matter of months.


There are several methods for shredding leave. You can invest in a shreader or my favorite is to mow them with a mulching lawn mower without the cather bag, right on the yard. Then mulching again with the mower bag attached, collecting both the shreaded  leaves and the grass clippings together.  Dump on to a tarp and drag to the garden.

The grass clippings add a source of needed nitrogen and gets the pile cooking. It is best to wait until the leaves have turned brown to shread them.  If I have a great amount I pile the leaves on my driveway and make several passes to turn the leaves to a fine powder.



Third- Add Nitrogen. To speed up the decomposition process from years to months, it is necessary to add nitrogen to your shredded leaves and lawn material.


An excellent source of nitrogen is green grass clippings.

Horse, chicken or rabbit manure will also get your compost pile cooking. There ratio of leaves to nitrogen source is 5 to 1.  You can continue to add your normal compost additives like fruit peels, coffee grounds, vegetables trimmings and grass trimmings as you do your periodic turning.


Home Depot sells Organic compost starters as well as manures. When using these products like Ringers Compose Plus follow the direction on the package.

One package will convert up to 750 pounds of yard debris into compost.



Forth-  Keep it Cooking   Turning that pile and mixing in oxygen gets it to heat up and break down the yard debris quickly. Simply take a shovel or pitchfork and turn it over.  This should be done 2 to 3 times a week.



It is also important to keep it moist like a damp sponge.  If it is to dry sprinkle it as you turn it.  Too much water is not good, so to protect it from heavy rain cover with a tarp, held down with rocks. You can use the same tarp to haul the leaves to the compost pile



Enjoy next seasons enriched soil.




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Posted 2016-08-25T17:42:51+0000  by Char_HD_CHI Char_HD_CHI
Great article, Char!

Compost is what makes all the difference in any kind of soil. It loosens compacted clay, and it binds sandy soil.

Compost is a priceless commodity. Truly, "Black Gold".

Posted 2016-08-26T13:15:07+0000  by Travis_HD_ATL
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