Those precious fall leaves!
Love them or not they are a great source of plant nutrients. Calcium, phosphorous, nitrogen & magnesium. Besides adding healthy nutrients to the soil, leaves create rich organic humus and leaf mold.
Leaf compost acts like a mop; it soaks up rain drops that will later moisturize sandy soils. It adds texture & aeration that clay soils benefit from. The leaf mold it creates invites worms. Roots love texture. Gardens love worms.
While Mother Nature actually makes leaf compost and mold, gardeners can respectfully take advantage of it. Once the natural basic breakdown process is understood, gardeners can work with it and get satisfying, sustainable results.
Leaves can take 2 – 3 years to breakdown. Here is a general description of the process and some simple tips to speed it up and a couple of things to avoid.
Composting leaves will need nitrogen to decompose. Turn leaf compost piles every now & then at regular intervals so all leaves are eventually exposed and/or unexposed to open air as well as turned under from time to time. This will continue to keep the composting process moving right along.
Turn only the still composting leaves on top of the soil. Don’t turn the leaves into the soil at this point. Leaves that are not decomposed and turned into the soil prematurely will rob desired plants of nitrogen.
For faster composting results grind or mulch your DRY leaves with a lawnmower equipped with an attached bag. I don’t have a lawnmower nor do I always have the time to mulch my dry leaves but when I do I throw on a pair of goggles & a dust mask & mulch them with my Weedwacker in a trash can.
Water assists the composting process. Water down the leaf compost pile from time to time. Don’t over water though. Too much water will result in mildew odor.
Leaf Mold is the result of broken down leaf mulch. The matter found at the very bottom of an aging leaf compost pile. It is dark brown/black, crumbly and smells quite earthy. Leaf Mold is a superb soil conditioner, attracts worms, provides carbon, holds water and prevents erosion and drought.
Adding Additional Nutrients
When leaves have composted add any additional nutrients that your soil requires, if any. Add the additional nutrients to the leaf compost only and not the soil unless otherwise directed.
Leaf Compost – Sustainable – Agriculture
Urban Farming? How do you compost leaves?