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Leaf Mold and its Benefits

This is the time of the year when people don’t know what to do with all their leaves! There are plenty of ideas for putting backyard leaves to good use, such as using them for compost, mulch or insulation for tender plants. But there’s another way that you can make your leaves worthwhile and it’s ridiculously simple: leaf mold.

What is Leaf Mold?

Leaf mold is what happens when you let leaves sit and decompose. It has a pleasant earthy smell to it - despite its name - and is crumbly in texture, similar to compost. It’s usually dark brown to black in color. Leaf mold is made entirely from leaves, so no organic matter needs to be added to achieve a certain texture or balance. It’s that easy!

Here are some of the ways that you can use leaf mold:

  • Dig it into garden beds to improve soil structure.

  • Use it as mulch around vegetable beds or flower beds.

  • Place it in container plants to retain water.

What are the Benefits?

It’s typically recommended to rake up your leaves or add them to compost, so why would you want them to rot in your yard? Well, there’s a couple of reasons.

First, leaf mold is extremely helpful for conditioning the soil and increasing water retention, but it doesn’t do much good in terms of adding nutrients. Compost is still needed for this, so both compost and leaf mold can work together to deliver better soil results.

Second, leaf mold enhances the soil structure and creates an excellent foundation for soil life such as earthworms and other helpful bacteria. For very little work and no cost, you can have much healthier soil thanks to leaf mold!

How Do I Make It?

There are two ways that you can make leaf mold.

  1. Pile the leaves in a corner of your yard or into some type of wire or wooden bin. Add water to the pile so that it’s damp and check on it every so often to make sure the leaves stay wet. If they dry out, add more water.

  2. Fill the leaves in a large plastic bag and add some water to dampen them. Close up the bag, but add a few holes to let air in. Check the bag every couple of months for moisture, and add water as necessary.

It takes time for leaf mold to develop, usually around 6 months to a year. But this shouldn’t be a problem since you won’t be ready to use it until next spring. However, if you find that the leaf mold is taking its sweet time, there are a few ways you can speed it up.

  • Break up the leaves before adding them to the pile or bag, such as by running them over with a lawn mower.

  • Turn the leaf pile every couple of weeks with a rake or shovel to bring in more air. If your leaves are in a bag, just shake it up for the same effect!

  • If your leaves are in a bin, cover them with a tarp to seal in warmth and moisture.

Well, there you have it. Leaf mold. Finally an easy way to put your leaves to good use without having to spend time or money. If only everything could be this easy!

Photo Credit: FreeImages.com/WhitneyJones

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