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Tired of bagging and hauling bundle after bundle of leaves to the curb ? Autumns leaves can easily be recycled and converted into valuable leaf mold -Leaf mold is soil consisting primarily of decayed leaves. Pound for pound, leaves contain twice the minerals of manure.
Added to yard and garden soils it serves as a valuable soil builder. Leaf mold improves the soil structure and moisture retention capacity of any soil.
They can supply abundant fibrous organic material. Leaf mold can serve to aerate heavy clay soils, and prevent sandy soils from drying out too quickly.
Leaf Mold creates optimal conditions for beneficial soil dwelling organisms, and it's also serves well when added to potting mix. Leaf Mold can be used in place of peat as well, it has similar qualities and is less expensive.
Leaf mold makes an excellent moisture retentive mulch as it will hold a tremendous amount of water, in fact - hundreds of times its own weight. It's inexpensive and leaves are in abundance. There are however, a few cautions you'll want to heed
1. Avoid using leaves from a lawn that has been sprayed with synthetic chemicals recently. Leaves and Grass clippings with chemical traces can easily contaminate them.
2. Avoid using leaves from the street, as they frequently are contaminated with road salts, auto waste and sand.
3. Leaf mold has a tremendous water retention capacity, it retains a lot of moisture. This quality can actually be detrimental to seeds planted in early spring. Seeds may actually rot in the damp cold soil before they have a chance to germinate.
Do-It-Yourself Leaf Mold
The most efficient way for the home gardener to make leaf mold. Make a leaf mold cage from chicken wire supported by trees or stakes. The size of your cage depends on the quantity of leaves you have - for the average yard a 3X3 cage should suffice.
You can just pile leaves in this cage , but that would lead to a much slower decomposition time , and also require more space than if you were to first shred and grind the leaves.
The easiest way to do this is by running them through a lawn mower or just running over the leaf pile a few times. To expedite decomposition , be sure to turn the pile at least every other week.
Over an extended period, as the decomposition of the leaf mold progresses, it eventually changes into humus. Humus is a more stable, durable remnant of decaying organic material. Like leaf Mold And compost , It improves soil structure and moisture retention. It's nutrients include trace elements and several important organic materials but does not include several key elements -nitrogen and phosphorus.
Some gardeners will simply pile their leaves in a heap or even a compost cage as described above. Using this method will work. Nature will eventually break the leaves down -after a few years,you'll have some leaf mold. However using the correct methods of shredding and grinding the leaves into fine particles and turning the pile ensures that leaves 'harvested' this fall will be usable the following spring.
You can also expedite the break down of your leaves by adding extra nitrogen. Nitrogen provides food for the bacteria responsible for the break down of organic matter. Extra nitrogen can be added with supplements such as dried blood, bone meal or manure. a 6 to 1 ratio is optimal - that's 6 parts leaves to 1 part manure. Using dried blood or bone meal and the ratio changes to about 20 to 1, depending on the concentration of the product.