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July 2012
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What is Leaf Mold? What are its benefits? How to make leaf mold?

Leaf mold is a form of compost produced by the fungal breakdown of shrub and tree leaves.

Overview of Leaf Mold

• These are generally too dry, acidic, or low in nitrogen for bacterial decomposition.
• Due to the slow decaying nature of their high carbon content, dry leaves break down far more slowly than most other compost ingredients.
• This can be overcome either by placing the collected leaves wet in plastic bags or in specially constructed wire bins, to encourage fungal action.
• To accelerate this fungal breakdown, it is useful to keep the leaves wet and avoid the drying effects of wind.
• Leaf mold is dark brown to black.
• It has a pleasant earthy aroma and a crumbly texture, much like compost.

Benefits of Leaf Mold

• Leaf mold is far superior to an organic fertilizer as a soil amendment.
• Leaf mold is essentially a soil conditioner.
• It increases the water retention of soils.
• Leaf mold also improves soil structure.
• It provides a fantastic habitat for soil life, including earthworms and beneficial bacteria.

How to Make Leaf Mold?

The decomposition process for leaves takes at least six to twelve months. There are two methods to make leaf mold.
1. The first method
• It consists of either piling your leaves in a corner of the yard or into a wood or wire bin.
• The pile or bin should be at least three feet wide and tall.
• Pile up your leaves, and thoroughly dampen the entire pile.
• Let it sit.
• Keep checking the moisture level occasionally during dry periods and adding water if necessary.

2. The second method
• This requires a large plastic garbage bag.
• Fill the bag with leaves and moisten them.
• Seal the bag and then cut some holes or slits in the bag for air flow.
• Let it sit.
• Check the bag every month or two for moisture, and add water if the leaves are dry.

There are a couple of things you can do to speed up the process:
• Before adding leaves to your pile or bag, run over them a couple of times with your lawn mower.
• Smaller pieces will decompose more quickly.
• Use a shovel or garden fork to turn your leaf pile every few weeks.
• If you are using the plastic bag method, just turn it over or give it a firm shake.
• This will introduce air into the process, which speeds decomposition.
• If you are using the pile or bin method, cover your pile with a plastic tarp.
• This will keep the leaves more consistently moist and warm.

How to Use Leaf Mold?

• You can dig or till it into garden beds to improve soil structure and water retention.
• You can use it as mulch in perennial beds or vegetable gardens.
• It’s also fabulous in containers, due to its water retaining abilities.

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