HOW TO MAKE A LEAF MOULD COMPOST





When deciding on making your own leaf mould compost you can collect leaves from either your own garden or – with appropriate permission - public places.

If you are collecting leaves by the sides of main roads they may be affected by atmospheric pollution, so if this is your only access to fallen leaves try to collect them from quieter streets or side roads – it will be a little safer too. When given the choice, leaves are far easier to collect when the weather is dry and still.

If you are collect leaves from off the lawn, consider using a rotary mower. Not only will this shred the leaves – speeding up the process of decomposition – it will also add some grass clippings which will increase the nutrient value of the future leaf mould.

The best quality leaf mould is produced from the leaves of oak, beech or hornbeam trees, but most leaves from deciduous trees and shrubs can be composted - although some will rot down at a much faster rate than others. Oak, beech and hornbeam are the quickest to compost down, while leaves from sycamore and horse chestnut will take a little longer. Leaves from conifers and evergreen trees can take up to three years to rot down, and so are best shredded and added to a traditional compost heap instead.

While this natural process for decomposing fallen deciduous leaves is slow it can be speeded up by placing collected leaves into either plastic bags or specially-constructed wire bins. To accelerate the process it is useful to keep the leaves wet and out of the way from the drying effects of wind.

When using plastic bags for holding leaf mould, puncture several holes into the base and sides of the bag. This will help with drainage and allow air to flow through the bag, preventing the leaves from turning slimy. The traditional wire enclosure has a tendency to slow down the fungal decomposition process as without periodic maintenance it can allowing the contents to dry out and so it is advisable to line the wire enclosure with cardboard or some other similar material.

To create a good quality, usable leaf mould your collected leaves will need to be allowed to rot down for at least a year. After this period the leaves should have changed into a dark crumbly material, although at this stage the leaf mould compost will still recognisable as bits of leaves. However, if you leave it to continue rotting for a further year it would have composted further still into to a dark brown compost, which can be dug into the ground and used as a soil conditioner. This material contains high levels of humus which - when dug into the soil - will help it to retain moisture and enable it to hold onto nutrients.

Throughout the decomposition process you should periodically check that the leaves are kept damp and every now and then give the bag a good shake to open up the leaf mix to air.

For related articles click onto the following links:
BBC: MAKING LEAF MOULD
HOW TO COMPOST
HOW TO MAKE JOHN INNES COMPOST
HOW TO MAKE LIQUID FERTILIZER FROM COMFREY
Making and Using Leaf Mold
WHAT IS CROP ROTATION?
WHAT IS A LEAF MOULD COMPOST?
WHAT IS JOHN INNES COMPOST?

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