New and seasoned gardeners alike are always looking for the latest magic remedy that will help them nurture their best gardens yet. But what if we told you that compost of the highest quality you can get is sitting in your yard right now?
Introducing leaf mold: the amazing, natural, (and did we mention free?) compost that organic and permaculture growers have been using for years to enhance the growing power of their gardens.
Although it takes a bit of time and muscle power to make, it’s an incredibly easy way to cover your garden with the nutrients it needs—and to clean up your fallen leaves, all in one go. Here’s everything you need to know about making your own leaf mold this season.
What is leaf mold?
Before we dive into how to make leaf mold, let’s get into the details of what leaf mold actually is.
“Leaf mold is a special type of natural fertilizer, which you can make by collecting fallen leaves and allowing them to decompose,” says Harry Bodel, a gardening expert from Price Your Job.
Although it might sound too good to be true, that’s really all there is when it comes to making leaf mold. So what’s the catch? Leaf mold needs time to fully decompose. This means that the leaf mold you make this season won’t be good for at least six months to one year, depending on which method of leaf-mold making you choose. We’ll dive into that next.
How to make leaf mold
As we mentioned earlier, making leaf mold isn’t hard. But there are a few different ways to go about it. In the first of these, you simply gather your leaves into a pile.
“Raking your leaves and piling them for the year will help the leaves decompose,” says Don Adams, a gardener and landscaper. “Think piles of 3 by 3 feet. You need to keep the leaves wet, or at least moist, and turn every few weeks to even out the process. The influx of oxygen will also help quicken the decomposition.”
Unless you get lots of rain or snow, Adams recommends hosing down your pile every few weeks, and using a large garden fork to rotate the contents of the pile and speed up the decomposition process. This method usually takes anywhere between six months to a year for fully decomposed and usable leaf mold.
The second method involves bagging up your piles or placing them in large bins or containers. As you may imagine, this works to lock in more moisture and significantly speeds up the decomposition and can give you working leaf mold within six months.
“If you lack space, you can also perform the whole process in large black bin bags,” says Adams. “Press the leaves tightly into the bags and poke holes in the side. Keep it moist by pouring in water every week and give the bags a shake to mix the leaves up a bit. Your bags might also decompose, so just keep an eye on that too!”
Tips for making your best leaf mold
There are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind for the best results. The first of these is to be sure you’re only including things that will decompose quickly, that is, leaves and grass.
“You can use most leaves in autumn, even the ones with black dots,” says Bodel. “Just try to avoid evergreen leaves—such as holly, laurel or conifers—as they will take years to rot down.”
Another trick many seasoned leaf mold makers swear by: Chop up everything before leaving it to decompose in piles.
“To help speed up the process, you should run the mower over the lawn, with a high blade setting,” says Bodel. “This will help shred the leaves, allowing you to collect them with your grass trimmings. If you can collect them when they are damp, this is even better, as they rot faster.”
A final bit of advice? Be sure to place your leaf mold pile at a distance from your home.