• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com pie forums private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Anne Miller
  • r ranson
  • Pearl Sutton
  • Leigh Tate
  • jordan barton
stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • paul wheaton
  • Liv Smith
master gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • Jay Angler
  • John F Dean
gardeners:
  • Nancy Reading
  • Beau Davidson
  • Heather Sharpe

Incredible, Amazing....Leaf Mold

 
Brandon Hughes
Posts: 2
1
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I love the topic of leaf mold. I'd just like to share what I've found using leaf mold in my garden the last 4 years or so. I am fortunate enough to be able to get as much leaf mold as I could ever want thanks to it being available at a local dump site. They have a huge mountain of shredded leaves from when they suck up leaves from the curbs in the fall. When you go to the leaf mountain, the top 6 inches looks like fresh shredded leaves. Once you get past that first layers it's completely black and looks like aged manure.

In using the leaf mold, I do believe it's best used as an amendment and better to be mixed in the soil than to just filling a bed with it or layering it on top. Although the leaf mold does absorb a ton of water, this also means it takes a ton of water to penetrate the ground when the leaf mold is on top. This can be mitigated with a good mulch layer of woodchips on top as this will keep the leaf mold from drying out. I also fill like, as with any thing you add to the soil, the benefits are going to be seen more so in the future rather than right away like chemical fertilizers. So for a brand new garden and adding leaf mold for the first time it may not be quite as fertile and productive as that same garden a year later when that leaf mold has now been integrated into the soil.

 
Tj Jefferson
pollinator
Posts: 1341
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
341
3
hugelkultur forest garden hunting chicken food preservation bee
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've been meaning to reply to this, but IT issues have been frustrating me.

Another use for the leaves for me is covering mushroom logs. I inoculate them, wait a few months of fungal growth weather (above freezing by a good bit), then put a good 6" of leaves on top to maintain humidity. This is the method I've seen for nameko and I figured why not use it for other logs? The leaves are totally gone after a year and I can re-apply until the logs are spent, then its a garden bed.

Most of the leaves (I'm getting a few truckloads a week delivered) just go in a big pile and then on the traditional garden after a year. I do see a bunch of pill bugs, but not much slugs, not near as many as the wood chip gardens. the durability of the leaves but low thickness is nice for beds that are getting turned over in the fall for winter crops.  
 
Amy Francis
Posts: 350
Location: London, UK
74
personal care medical herbs ungarbage
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
On 2 related leaf topics...

I tried (for the first time) to make leaf mould, i.e. gathered my loquat leaves into a large bin bag - that had holes - placing it in a shady area.  After 6 months or so they showed little sign of breaking down and I realised that was probably due to these leaves being fairly robust/thickish.  I then tried again - this time using fallen/dried sycamore leaves (thinner) and hope to have more success...I think it probably takes longer than a year, which is what I normally read is the indicated time.

Re: Tree leaves.  There's a small wooded area near me that has a rich depth of fallen leaves - spongy, dark brown, broken up under foot.  I have read here that tree leaves have lignins but these leaves have been broken down to a mulch like state.   However, I don't know enough about these fine, decayed leaves to make use of them, e.g. on what plants.  Are they generally good for most plants or, if I identified the trees, would that be more helpful?  Is there a general guide, e.g. oak leaf mould being good for what kinds of plants etc?
 
Rachel Stark
Posts: 9
Location: Near Baltimore, MD.
3
  • Likes 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The oak/pine forest I back up to seems to have a pretty thick layer of leaf mold, with lots of mushroom activity. I think I've seen little patches of red chantarelle mushrooms growing in a few places on the forest floor when its very moist. Not exactly edible, people walk their dogs right there, so I guess it gets plenty of nitrogen! Is it possible to use well-aged leaf mold as a substrate for growing these mushrooms?

Edit: I did take some pictures of some of the flora that came up in a record rainfall year! Mostly mushrooms (including what I think is a red chantarelle), but some wild fairyslipper orchids and a myco-heterotroph called Monotropa uniflora.
20180505_fungus-COLLAGE.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20180505_fungus-COLLAGE.jpg]
 
Kc Simmons
gardener
Posts: 570
Location: Central Texas
224
hugelkultur forest garden trees rabbit greening the desert homestead
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've never made actual leaf mould, but it definitely sounds like something I need to get started with.
One of my goals is to develop my own, sustainable potting mix for my hobby-market nursery plants, and leaf mould seems like it would be a good component of the mix.
This fall/winter I've been trying to rake up a few feed sacks of leaves whenever I have a chance. Since we've been having a warm winter, a lot of the oaks still haven't dropped all of their leaves, so hopefully I'll be able to get a fair amount of leaves gathered.
Glad I found this thread!
 
Heather Ulrich
Posts: 33
16
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I love this topic! We live on 24 acres of heavy woods, so leaves are abundant.  Funny tho, I always feel as if I'm robbing the forest when I pick them up!  

We have a mower with a vacuum/bagging system, as well a large "leaf vacuum".  The leaf vacuum is so cool. Its a pull behind (we use the 4-wheeler), has a 6" hose that sucks up leaves and turns them through a small "chopper" and then shoots them into a 3'x4' containment area. Once that's full, we pull it over to where we want to apply leaves and dump. Last fall we dressed all our garden beds with about a foot of chopped leaves. I plan to get out and collect more soon, and apply them to the walkways - as weeds are a very annoying issue we deal with all summer long.  I'll lay cardboard first in hopes of choking it out, then leaves, then will try to find some free sawdust - or buy some if I have to.
 
Chris rain
Posts: 64
12
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I too have the problem of cedar roots growing into my compost piles.  By the time the leaves are ready, all their nutrients have already been sucked away by cedars.
I've been cutting back the cedars, although they are nice for privacy.
Even if I leave them in bags, roots get in.  I should place some layers of cardboard underneath.  Any other ideas?

I created a 20'x5' raised bed and lined the bottom with polyethylene 5mil sheet to keep cedar roots out.  Then I filled it with leaves and waited a year.  Grub worms helped the leaves break down. The grubs were 5 inches long and thicker than my thumbs!  Curled up they were as wide as my fist!  Must be good!

I'm in Leander Tx, so piles tend to dry out.  I now plant in that raised bed, so I need a way to compost more leaves!  Maybe I'll layer cardboard, then put bags on top.  But then the problem is the sun breaking down the plastic bags into flakes!  Any ideas?  

My soil is barren limestone hillside. I realized, as long as I can keep an area moist, then anything organic material will break down rather quickly.  It's enough to want to buy a billboard tarp and make a huge "wicking" garden without the gravel!

I wonder if Biochar would keep leaves moist in the upper layers of the compost?

Roots and dry heat are my obstacles.  I mulch with shredded trees to cool the area from reflected sun (the ground is white limestone clay). I also built Ann arbor from cut cedars.  It helped.  I'll find a video...
 
Chris rain
Posts: 64
12
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here is my garden.  The last bed is the 20' one made entirely of leaves and coffee grounds (before I learned not to use anything but leaves!)

 
Kc Simmons
gardener
Posts: 570
Location: Central Texas
224
hugelkultur forest garden trees rabbit greening the desert homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Has anyone ever grown potatoes with leaf mold as a mulch? Reading through the forums, I've seen many people say potatoes like a fungally dominated soil, as well as lots of nitrogen. While I understand straw is supposed to be best, unfortunately I don't have access to organic straw, and not enough time to grow my own straw (though I'm working on growing my own for next year).
I have a large section of fence line where some oaks were removed, leaving several years worth of leaf mold on the ground (about 6-8" + current year's leaves), and I'd like to use it before the sun/heat of spring & summer comes in and burns up the fungal network. My thought was to mix some leaf mold with composted rabbit manure as the initial cover of the potatoes, then mulch with the leaves that haven't fully decomposed yet. Then, if more nitrogen was needed during the growing season, I could add more compost and/or diluted urine to the mounds.
Growing potatoes is new for me, so am hoping to pick up some tips for successfully growing them with permaculture.  
 
Shelly Shumpert
Posts: 3
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hello!  I'm trying to find out why leaf mold from a conifer forest is not recommended... I've found most of the coveted mycchorizal hairs there rather than under my hard wood trees.  Thank you on advance!
 
Rebecca Norman
gardener
Posts: 2310
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
621
trees food preservation solar greening the desert
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'll pile on with another question.

I live in high desert, very very dry. I started new gardens 3 years ago, and it's been difficult to build up soil fertility and organic matter. There is very little waste biomass, but there are some people in my village who burn their leaves, so I did manage to get several large sacks, hard packed, of leaves last fall and lass the previous fall. But they stayed bone dry, and with some difficulty I mixed them into my garden soil. The sacks are that woven plastic tarp type of stuff, will probably flake off if left out in the sun. But maybe I should pour some water down into the sacks and just leave them? Should I try to inoculate them with fungus or just water them? What do you think? I'm pretty excited about the rhapsodies for leaf mold on this thread!
 
Sher Miller Lehman
Posts: 26
Location: Vanuatu
5
medical herbs writing homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My leaf mold system:  always a place to add new leaves & always a pile if completed leaf mold. Process is much faster and takes only a little effort.

I set up 3 framed screens that sit at an angle from the ground. I use a large medium and small size mesh. (1 inch, half inch, quarter inch for example).

Fresh leaves get dumped in pile next to big screen. I throw leaves on the big screen. What falls through becomes the second pile. What doesn't fall through goes back to 1st pile with new leaves.

I throw the 2nd pile on the medium screen. What falls through becomes the 3rd pile. What doesn't fall goes back to the 2nd pile.

Then I throw the 3rd pile on the smallest screen. What falls through goes into the 4th pile, the finished leaves. What doesn't fall through goes back to the 3rd pile.

The final pile is a perpetual source of finished leaf mold so I always have some ready to use. The first pile gives me a place to throw leaves as they fall.
 
Joe Flores
Posts: 20
Location: Southeast NE - Zone 5b
3
kids books
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Sher Miller Lehman wrote:My leaf mold system:  always a place to add new leaves & always a pile if completed leaf mold. Process is much faster and takes only a little effort.

I set up 3 framed screens that sit at an angle from the ground. I use a large medium and small size mesh. (1 inch, half inch, quarter inch for example).

Fresh leaves get dumped in pile next to big screen. I throw leaves on the big screen. What falls through becomes the second pile. What doesn't fall through goes back to 1st pile with new leaves.

I throw the 2nd pile on the medium screen. What falls through becomes the 3rd pile. What doesn't fall goes back to the 2nd pile.

Then I throw the 3rd pile on the smallest screen. What falls through goes into the 4th pile, the finished leaves. What doesn't fall through goes back to the 3rd pile.

The final pile is a perpetual source of finished leaf mold so I always have some ready to use. The first pile gives me a place to throw leaves as they fall.



Could you please post pictures? This sounds like a great system.
 
Sher Miller Lehman
Posts: 26
Location: Vanuatu
5
medical herbs writing homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It is a great system. I'm not using it currently so no pictures, sorry.

I learned this method from my grandfather in the 60s. But for almost 2 decades now I've been using Master Cho's soil foundation with IMO(Indigenous Micro Organisms) which is a much better technology. But I stand by the leaf mold screening system as super easy and highly effective.
 
Kenneth Elwell
pollinator
Posts: 845
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
306
4
urban books building solar rocket stoves ungarbage
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Rebecca Norman wrote:I'll pile on with another question.

I live in high desert, very very dry. I started new gardens 3 years ago, and it's been difficult to build up soil fertility and organic matter. There is very little waste biomass, but there are some people in my village who burn their leaves, so I did manage to get several large sacks, hard packed, of leaves last fall and lass the previous fall. But they stayed bone dry, and with some difficulty I mixed them into my garden soil. The sacks are that woven plastic tarp type of stuff, will probably flake off if left out in the sun. But maybe I should pour some water down into the sacks and just leave them? Should I try to inoculate them with fungus or just water them? What do you think? I'm pretty excited about the rhapsodies for leaf mold on this thread!



Hi Rebecca, I've been making leaf mould for years and I usually shred the leaves (100+ cubic yards/year) and it's wet enough here in Boston, that they break down well by the following summer. I have however, found pockets of whole unshredded leaves within my piles when I have had a neighbor drop some off, or I got some bagged leaves and dumped them out without shredding them, and the weather was dry when they got piled up. I'd find them intact in the spring when turning the pile. I'd be sure to mix them around well when turning.

I'd definitely get rid of the plastic tarp bags (send them back and ask to get more leaves?!) before they break down into tiny plastic bits... Been there, it's heartbreaking.

Corral the leaves with some fencing and get them wet as you build your heap, turn it periodically to get the drier outer leaves inside the heap and water it as you do.

I do the screening thing as well, the already broken down small stuff gets used for mulching, and the big stuff gets piled again to break down more. I have a motorized trommel screen, so it gets a good mixing at the same time.

 
Jackie Bodiou
pollinator
Posts: 49
Location: Ohio river valley Kentucky zone 6b
12
home care medical herbs homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Great info thanks! I just used a lot of leaf mold in my heavy clay soil for my garden and wow it helped so much! I am definitely making as much of this glorious stuff as possible! 😍
 
Anne Miller
master steward
Posts: 8559
Location: USDA Zone 8a
2572
dog hunting food preservation cooking bee greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
For those of you wanting to make leaf mold that is really great.

I for one am lucky enough to live where mother nature has given me all the leaf mold that I want.

All I have to do is walk out my front door, and take a short walk to find some oak trees that are growing in the shade.

The purpose of finding trees growing in the shade is that there is no grass growing under those trees.

I can rack back the leaves and find black gold under those leaves.  Dark, black soil that mother nature has been composting for many years.

I can bag that rich black soil and then put it directly into my garden. Or even into a container to grow plants directly into that wonderful black already composted leaf mold.

Another thing I could do is bag those leaves to take back with me and make composted leaf mold.  Though to me it is easier to just spread those leaves back where I found them and let mother nature do the composting for me.

And lucky me, I have 40 acres of this wonderful leaf mold.
 
Lila Stevens
pollinator
Posts: 138
36
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you, Ken, for all this wonderful info, and for the info added by everyone who responded. I live about 12 minutes from a town where folks are still raking up their leaves into black garbage bags (sometimes thick contractor bags, yikes) and putting them out for collection. I loaded up the back of my truck again and again this past fall. My daughter got really annoyed with me and kept saying, "Ughh, you have enough leaves now!" and I was like, "never!" I untied the bags carefully and was able to save most of them for re-use too. The things people throw away...

There is also a guy in town who seems to walk around town raking up leaves for hire. I happened to catch him one day and gave him my number and now he texts me when he has a bunch for me to pick up. He was a little shocked and confused that I would want them, and I think may have suspected that I had ulterior motives for giving him my number, but I think he has now caught on that I am simply eccentric and really do want the leaves. So things work smoothly now.

The idea of making some kind of business of this in the future is certainly appealing. The challenge would be finding the space and method to stockpile enough leaves to just let them sit, without them blowing away. We get some major winds here sometimes. I am thinking large hoops of fencing would work in most normal winds, maybe anchored with t-posts.

This fall I will stockpile as much as I can and let the majority just sit and turn to leaf mold. I am also going to use some as bedding/ litter in my chicken coop and give my chickens all our kitchen waste and let them turn all that into a different kind of compost. I have fantasies of collecting compost material from restaurants and coffee places to compost with chickens, food waste, and leaves on a larger scale too. But one person can only do so much, so that is a few years down the line, if ever. But that is off-topic anyway. I get a bit over-excited when thinking about turning waste products into fertility.

Anyway, thanks for this! It's wonderful to know that I don't need "greens" to make excellent use of the abundance of leaves.
 
This guy is skipping without a rope. At least, that's what this tiny ad said:
Rocket Mass Heater Manual - now free for a while
https://permies.com/goodies/8/rmhman
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic