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How to tell when leaves have become leaf mold and are ready to use for mulch.

 
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I've been saving leaves in a wire bin for 2-3 years. I want to determine if they are ready to use for surface mulch, and to turn into the soil of my new beds.
I read that you can save leaves for 2 years -- more or less-- and they will become leaf mold.
What criteria should I look for to tell if these are ready?
(They were saved as whole leaves, not mown leaves.)

thanks..
 
garden master
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Take a look at the oldest leaves at the bottom of your wire bin. Leaf mold is soft and fluffy similar to a bagged potting soil and won't really have any identifiable leaves in it. If it looks like that, it's ready to use. It should smell good too, having a real earthy aroma.
 
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They should be unrecognizable.

But it doesn't take 2 or 3 years, unless you just want to ignore them.  I can't think of wet leaves that do that unless they are oak leaves.  If they are kept damp and in some layers with mowed weeds it might only take a few months.  When there's white mold on them they are working.  When you hold the back of your hand to the pile and you can feel heat, they are breaking down, and that's what you want.   We want the moldy leaves around the plants, not in a pile somewhere.
 
ellen rosner
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I saw a picture, indeed the leaf mold is crumbly and black like good soil-- so I clearly do not have that. What I have is leaves, lol. old leaves-- kinda crumbly. I think what I  may have done wrong is not pay attention to the amount of moisture. Well, I will keep trying.
 
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To make leaf mold you have to keep the pile of leaves wet, just piling them up only works in areas with lots of rain fall.

If you want to make really good leaf mold, the kind that provides the most bang for your efforts, add some green sand or just about any powder form mineral(s), doesn't take much just a sprinkling as you make the pile will do.
What happens to leaves is the worms come in and have a feast, but that means the moisture level needs to be pretty damp.
I keep my leaf pile wet enough that the leaves are soaking wet (can wring water from a handful) to start then as summer progresses I just make sure the pile remains damp.

Redhawk
 
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i suppose it depends on what you want to do, but theres really no harm is using them before they are "done"...you can use leaves at any time/at any stage of decomposition...
...and eventually it will turn into good dirt right in place...

well thats my way anyway, i am not also very precise...but no matter when you use them they will eventually turn into dirt.
 
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