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Does leaf mold need water?

 
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Location: East Africa
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I live in Tanzania, where most  trees drop leaves all year, and people rake them up and make little fires at the side of the road every few days. I want to make leaf mold!
I know the basic routine...pile them into bins or bags. But I don't know the details... like, whether they need water, and how much, given that my climate is very hot for most of the year. And during the rainy season, should they be sheltered from the rain, which can be incredibly heavy? nShould they be cut small?  And how long are they likely to take in a hot humid climate? And how to know when they are ready?
Thanks!
 
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Cath,

I am going to give this a shot, but conditions sound far different than the central United States.  Leaf mold is fungal dominated compost so I would try to reinforce those conditions.  

Congratulations on trying something different than burning leaves that could otherwise be put to good use.  I would rake and put into piles held together by chicken wire about 3 feet tall by 3 feet in diameter.  I would place them in an area that gets good shelter from sunlight and let them sit for 2-3 years (this may be faster for you if it does not dry out).  For you I would say make sure they don’t get parched dry in your dry season.  Usually leaf mold does not really care about heavy rains, but maybe some protection from drenching downpours would help prevent nutrients from washing away.  Maybe turn occasionally and spread moisture for an even consistency.  But I would want to protect from excessive dryness.  Chopping up leaves probably won’t hurt but I would concentrate on keeping the leaves from drying out.

One other note.  This will take some time.  In the past I have found that the ground under any compost heap is magnificent after the pile is gone.  Maybe consider placing the pile somewhere where you will use the ground afterwards.  This could be on a future garden bed or maybe under a tree.  

Good luck and let us know how things work out.

Eric
 
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Howdy Cath, yes congratulations, I hope you can teach others the value of not burning.
Where I live the trees drop leaves in the  fall, mostly an inch or two deep, then it rains , snows and freezes. The leaves lay on the ground, buried by snow ,all winter. They stay wet and in contact with the earth. In the spring , when the snow melts they are covered in mold, then slowly compost into the summer. So I think Eric has given good advise.

I do not know anything about your area, please forgive me.

So is this a heavy forest, or savanna?

In town or country?

If you just rake the leaves off the roads and pathways ,under the trees and leave them, what happens to them naturally?  Does mother nature make leaf mold there?
 
Eric Hanson
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Cath,

Regarding a finish date for your leaf compost, I won’t even try to estimate a timespan.  In my experience, compost is rarely “finished”, but rather “good enough.”  If you take leaf compost that has not totally finished breaking down, that’s probably ok, as it will continue to break down once you apply it, and the spot you let it sit will be magically fertile for some time.

I, too get wrapped up in composting projects and I want someone to tell me I am doing it right or wrong.  The important point is to try and share your ideas and experiences so others can learn.  I am hardly an expert, but I have had valuable experience and I am very curious as to how your project will work out.

Good luck and please keep us updated,

Eric
 
Cath Johnstone
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Location: East Africa
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Thanks for all your suggestions everyone.
I live in a coastal region. At my place there's no soil really, just sand! It's amazing that anything grows. There are patches of better soil around and some areas of clay even. And yes, Mother nature does make leaf mould but doesn't get much of a chance because of the fires!
I will give it a go and see what happens.
 
Eric Hanson
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Good to hear from you Cath, please keep us informed,

Eric
 
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