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.
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.
Standing on the shoulders of giants. Giants with dirt under their nails
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?
It is necessary, therefore it is possible.
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.
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!
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.
Southwest MO, Zone 6b - Just a lady who loves to garden!
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...
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.
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