Leaf mold compost is made from green and brown leaves and does not contain any other garden or kitchen waste, such as twigs or vegetable peelings. Adding leaf mold to your soil will add micro-nutrients, increase water retention by up to 50% and improve the soil's overall structure. It can be achieved in gardens of any size. Leaf compost can be used as organic mulch or as a bedding base for other plants. The process for making leaf mould compost is very simple, but the finished product can take up to 12 months to complete.
Step 1 - Prepare
Before gathering any leaves together, run a lawnmower over them to break them into smaller pieces. This has the added benefit of introducing a small amount of grass cuttings to the compost pile, which will speed up the composting process slightly. This is because grass cuttings act like an accelerator in compost piles, adding some additional moisture and nitrogen. Grass clipping can even be layered into the composting pile to speed the process further. Add a foot of leaves, followed by a few inches of grass clippings and repeat.
TIP: Karen Thurber, our gardening expert, suggests that when using a lawnmower to chop leaves, be sure to spread the leaves out so the mower can easily chop them. "If you have a bagger on your lawnmower it makes it even easier to collect the leaves."
Step 2 - Consider Storage
There are several different storage methods that can be used for producing leaf mold compost. Leaves can be enclosed in a wire mesh, put in a large plastic bag, placed into a wooden container such as a standard compost bin. Each method will prevent the leaves from being blown away and help to maintain a high level of heat which is necessary for the decomposition process. Once a storage unit has been selected, use a rake and gather all the leaves together into a corner of the garden, then place the leaves into the unit.
Step 3 - Aerate
All compost piles need aeration or airflow to facilitate the break down of the organic materials. If the leaves are in a compost bin or contained within a wire mesh, it will need to be turned on a monthly basis. If the leaves are contained in a plastic bag, make several slits in the plastic to allow the air to flow. The more often a compost pile is turned or shaken, the quicker the materials will break down.
Step 4 - Add Moisture
Add moisture to the leaf pile to assist with the heating and cooling process which will take place inside the leaf mold compost pile. If the storage unit is not enclosed, place a cover over the leaf mold pile to maintain moisture levels and prevent the pile from drying out or becoming too wet during harsh weather conditions. The compost pile will need to be checked regularly to ensure that the moisture level is adequate.
TIP: Karen suggests that your "leaves should be damp but not saturated. They should feel like a wrung-out sponge."
Step 5 - Understand Uses
Once the leaf mold has taken on a soil texture it can be used in the garden. Leaf mold can be dug into soil beds to aid with water retention or it can be added to flower beds and vegetable patches as mulch. It is a fantastic soil amendment and mulch.
TIP: Karen also notes: "Leaves that are high in lignin, like oak leaves, will take longer to decompose."