When decomposed, leaves provide the perfect habitat and food source for your soil’s microbes and earthworms. Leaf mold is a powerful soil conditioner. Well draining soil prevents plant roots from sitting in excess water. Given the copious amounts of dry leaves available in the fall you may want to consider making leaf mold. At once it makes the soil spongier and helps it retain moisture and air, which benefits plant roots. You can find a spot in your yard and wait a year or so for the leaves to break down. If you are using the pile or bin method, cover your pile with a plastic tarp. Remember leaf mold retains water at rate of 500% of its own weight so it makes a great alternative to peat moss. Below is a step by step guide to get started. She also worked at a 276-acre horticulture research farm as a Research Technician for five years. On the other hand, traditional compost utilizes a heat-generated process using bacteria to breakdown the organic matter. Two main factors necessary to create leaf mold are sufficient moisture and the presence of oxygen from the air. It holds more water by weight than peat moss. Leaves are an abundance in my backyard since trees surround my property. Hugelkultur: Permaculture’s Ultimate Raised Bed, 3 Ways to Make Your Own Seed Starting Pots. Depending on how you prepared the leaves, decomposition can take up to two years. Evergreens such as holly, Aucuba and cherry laurel, are better shredded and added to the compost heap, where they will break down faster than if added to the leafmould pile. Nonetheless, please don’t throw them out to the curbside and fill valuable landfill space. Gardening is one of the most popular hobbies around the world and studies have shown this past time may improve mental and physical health.  Whether or not you possess gardening personality traits, we want to coach you so you too, can reap this hobbies benefits. However, as the leaves … Leaf Mold – Natures Soil Conditioner. How to use autumn leaves to improve garden soil: Alan Titchmarsh’s top tips. If you are growing plants the same time you apply leaves in your garden bed, it can result in a nitrogen deficiency in the plants. Is Your Seed Alive? In this form it will absorb rainwater and during the hotter summer months, it will help to keep the root system of your plants cooler. Kimberly is passionate about all things sustainable gardening and reaping its physical and mental benefits. What this means is that applying leaf mold to your garden will boost soil life, will provide minerals for your plants, and will improve the structure of your garden’s soil. At once it makes the soil spongier and helps it retain moisture and air, which benefits plant roots. The Benefits of Leaf Mold. 3) The layer of leaves protect and feed organisms including earthworms. 1  Once the leaves are decomposed, the amendment can be mixed into your garden soil or container. Leaf mold also has high … You can use leaves from all sorts of deciduous trees to make leaf mould, but those that are thick – for example, horse chestnut, sweet chestnut and sycamore – are best shredded first. When applied to your garden and decompose, they increase the soil’s organic matter and it’s capacity to hold water and improve soil tilth. Conifer needles will eventually break down, but may take two to three years to decay. Leaf mold is like a soft pillow, which is naturally found in the forest just above the soil. Up to 80% of all nutrients that trees extract from the ground end up in its leaves. Also, stay away from using walnut leaves if you plan to use the leaf mold in your garden. A soil test will tell you if you need to add nitrogen to your planting beds; this can be done by simply adding well-rotted steer manure. They are ready when it looks like a black-brown spongy material, crumbly and smell like you’re walking in a forest. It’s good stuff! In fact, leaf mold doesn't really offer very many nutrients but conditions the soil. Leaf mold is excellent at retaining moisture in the soil. Rutgers University conducted a study about plant nutrients found in municipal leaves. Read our privacy policy. In addition to use for seedlings, potting on and plant containers, leaf mold is ideal for mulching around shallow rooted moisture loving plants: e.g. Benefits of Leaf Mold. Leaf mold can hold up to 500 times its own weight in water” … The number of fallen leaves can become overwhelming to try and figure out what to do with them. This will keep the leaves more consistently moist and warm. Leaf mold is more of a soil amendment. Once they help rake the leaves into a pile, they can jump and play in the leaves before placing them in their storage bins. Leaf mold is nothing more than well-composted tree leaves and it’s miraculous for building soil. Leaf mold is a soil amendment. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Small thin leaves such as birch break down fairly quickly, while large leathery ones such as chestnut benefit from being shredded first. However, I take the time to rake enough leaves to place into a pile to create nutrient-rich leaf mold for my containers and garden beds. Leaf mold is very versatile and can be used all throughout the garden. Leaf mold greatly improves the structure and water-holding capacity of soil. As a surface mulch leaf mold is effective too, insulating the soil from extreme fluctuations in soil temperature, keeping the surface from compacting so water can easily enter, and helping the soil retain moisture by slowing evaporation. With expertise in horticulture, garden design, and maintenance, she has her sights on coaching others so they too can begin their gardening journey. By well-composted, I mean leaves that have been cold composting for better than a year. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with it. Leaf mold will slow soil moisture evaporation during hot summers and will slow soil cooling in autumn. If that wasn’t enough, leaf mold also feeds earthworms and the beneficial … The University took a chemical analysis of 100 leaf samples across New Jersey. First of all, mold can be beneficial to the gardener. Organic matter also provides the perfect habitat for beneficial bacteria and earthworms in your garden. It helps speed up the leaf mold process to be ready in about a year. That being said, if the leaves have time to break down before you sow your next crop, it offers an excellent soil amendment. Once you’ve collected into a pile, mow over the leaves to shred them. Leaf mold provides a number of fantastic benefits for your garden: Increases the water holding capacity of the soil. Leaf mold is a form of compost, which gradually changes into the humus before it breakdown due to slow fungus. Leaf mould improves soil drainage and aeration and reduces soil compaction. So we know that leaves have a high level of carbon, which is a carbohydrate that provides energy. A simple wire or mesh container will do the job nicely. Leaf mold is a great soil conditioner. It could also mean you won’t have to worry about your plants as much when dry spells hit during the hottest parts of summer. Check out our homemade potting soil mix and substitute leaf mold for compost. Now, who wouldn’t want that? This natural soil conditioner improves water-holding capacity, enhances soil structure (and therefore water and air movement within the soil), and provide habitat for the soil’s micro–and macro– Your email address will not be published. It will attract a wide range of beneficial microorganisms and insects. She holds an Associate’s in Horticulture, a Bachelor’s in Business, and currently earning a Master’s in Business Administration. 1. As a surface mulch leaf mold is effective too, insulating the soil from … The research was to see if the leaves are a beneficial resource for agricultural soil and crops. Your email address will not be published. Leaf mold brings many benefits to your garden soil, such as: Do you want to get started making leaf mold? Leaf mold is essentially a soil conditioner. And of course, your garden soil will thank you! Tree leaves have high carbon, low nitrogen ratio (60:1), depending on leaf species, compared to an ideal organic material (24:1). Mix it into potting soil for added aeration and water retention. Don’t include leaves that show any fungal disease issues. However, as they breakdown, they will eventually release their nutrients, and its best to think of using leaves as a long-term fertility solution. Most leaves are slightly acidic when they fall, with a pH below 6. If you are using the plastic bag method, just turn it over or give it a firm shake. Planting beds conditioned with leaf mold may become slightly acid. As the leaves continue to decay, carbon levels decrease, and nitrogen levels increase, it eventually brings more nitrogen availability to the plants. Besides helping retain moisture in the soil by reducing evaporation, leaf mold also absorbs rainwater to reduce runoff, and in hot weather, it helps cool roots and foliage. Sep 21, 2020 | Building Healthy Soil, Gardening, How-To and Tips | 0 comments. Rake your leaves or collect leaves from a neighbor into a pile. Benefits of Leaf Mold Benefits of the leaf decomposing pile is to improve garden soil’s ability of moisture retention. Leaf mold is used as a soil amendment because it provides nutrients and a moist growing medium for plants. Benefits of Leaf Mold. Spread a three-inch (7.5 cm.) A few wooden posts and … 2) Leaf Mold improves soil fertility which means it provides nutrients to the soil and improves soil structure so it will become nice and loose over time. Affiliate Disclosure - Terms and Conditions - Privacy Policy, Anti-inflammatory Foods You Can Grow In Your Garden. Leaves can be stored in a circular wire (such as chicken wire) bin or piled in an inconspicuous area in your yard. Tree leaves are a nutrient hero. The first is that it can hold up to 500 percent of its own weight in water. Water retention – mixed into your garden soil, leaf mold will increase water retention in your garden soil making it easily available for plants. Leaf mold brings many benefits to your garden soil, such as: Adding organic matter to the soil which increases water-holding capacity Feeding the soil food web by increasing biological and worm activity Keeping your plant’s roots cool by regulating soil temperature moisture and retention When you directly apply leaves into or on top of your garden soil, the microorganisms will utilize the soil’s nitrogen to break down the leaves. It’s not just the lawn that should be cleared of leaves, either. It is gradually disintegrated. Leaf mold from deciduous trees will be richer in potassium and phosphorous than nitrogen. When the leaves decompose, the carbon is released and helps the soil retain water, structure, and fertility. Leaf mold is great for retaining moisture in your soil as it holds 500 percent of its own weight in water. This post may contain affiliate links. In this #shorts video, I take you through some of the benefits of using leaf mold in the garden. It utilizes a cool-generated process using fungus to breakdown the leaves. It will improve water retention, soil structure and drainage as well as improve the habitat for valuable organisms in the garden like earth worms and beneficial bacteria. Leaf mold really is natures compost, it needs no special treatment, makes a great natural mulch, it does not have much in the way of nutrients, however it does have a few hidden benefits. Not only is it less labor-intensive than a traditional compost pile, it only calls for one ingredient – fallen leaves. Luckily, I get out of constant raking during the fall months since my husband owns a mulcher mower. Along with giving nutrients gradually to plants, it … But you can add nutrient rich comfrey leaves to the material when preparing a mix for potting on or plant containers. Add the mold on the soil’s surface, and the worms and microorganisms will do the rest. It helps to develop clay soil, sandy soil or rocky soil to turn into good quality soil. Leaf mold is a a form of compost produced by the slow fungal breakdown of leaves before it finally turns into humus. Or chop them up for quicker decomposition by mowing over the pile. Despite its ugly appearance and potentially hazardous effects, mold can offer some great benefits. In a nutshell, carbon is the highest concentration element. Use a shovel or garden fork to turn your leaf pile every few weeks. Smaller pieces will decompose more quickly. Learn how to compost leaves quickly to make a nutrient-rich leaf compost that will benefit your garden. The best leaves for leaf mould Making a leaf mould bin Alternatively you can just pile up your leaves and use them later when brown materials are scarce. Leaf mold can easily compete with rock dust for being a source of minerals for your … Making leaf mold is less work and more straightforward to manage than composting. Evergreen leaves and conifer needles take far longer to rot and should not be included in great quantities, and then only when chopped. “It also creates the perfect conditions for the community of beneficial organisms that dwell in your soil” (Galloway, par.1). The energy increases the development of bacteria and fungi in the soil and uses up the nitrogen. Using leaf mold as a soil amendment is a common and productive practice. Leaf mold is a soil amendment that can be used in containers, potting soil mixes, seed starting, raised beds and in ground gardens. Leaf mold has a number of great benefits but first let’s mention what it’s not. Leaf mold also improves soil structure and provides a fantastic habitat for soil life, including earthworms and beneficial bacteria. It absorbs rainwater to reduce runoff, and in hot weather, it helps cool roots and foliage. You can also place them in trash bags. It increases the water retention of soils. You want your microbes and worms to be happy and healthy. Kimberly lives in Kansas City, MO, USDA Zone 6. 4) By using leaves as a mulch, you are helping the environment. Leaf mold adds valuable organic matter to the soil. A soil pH test may … Leaf mould creators, listen up! Instead, create a large pile, wet them down to make leaf mold! Leaf mold is considered to be a soil conditioner. It’s best to shred them using your mower so they’ll break down faster. Moreover, its low nutrient content benefits the early development of healthy seedling roots. It helps to loosen heavy soil, hold the soil moisture, confirm proper aeration and drainage system. The Hearty Garden.  All Rights Reserved. It does not supply the plants with nutrients like compost does, rather, it improves soil structure. You will know when the leaves are breaking down because they will turn into a black-brown spongy material and will smell like you’re walking in a forest. The benefits of leaf mould cannot be overstated. Some studies have shown soils have retained 50% more water after the addition of leaf mold. © 2020. In addition to mowing over the leaves to speed up the process, you can turn the pile or give the plastic bag a firm shake. Leaf mold adds organic matter and other nutrients when you add it to your garden. We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. Most leaves can be turned into leaf mould, but some take longer to compost than others. The table below shows the nutrient concentration extracted from the leaves. Remove them from patios, decks and paths to stop them becoming slippery as well as reap the benefits of making your own soil improver. Watch your soil reap the benefits! Check on them every so often to make sure they are moist. You can apply a layer of shredded leaves (3-6 inches) around the base of trees, shrubs, and flower beds. Log in, The Best Way to Get Rid of Pill Bugs in the Garden. Leaf mold has several great attributes. Leaf Mold is the result of leaves that have fully decomposed and now have a crumbly texture. Leaf mold is an organic matter and a soil amendment that is simply a result of composted tree leaves. Secondly, the added mixture will improved soil so that it is well-draining. One of the great benefits from using leaf mold compost is that it will hold 500% more of its own weight in water. Making leaf mold is an easy way to get your children involved in learning how to reduce, reuse, and recycle. To enjoy year after year, use multiple bins, piles, and bags for a fresh continuous yearly batch. Over time, annual applications of leaf mold mulch can significantly improve the quality of your soil and increase in beneficial soil life. There are two main factors need for making a leaf mold: – The presence of adequate moisture and oxygen in the air. layer around shrubs, trees, in flower beds and gardens, or any spot that will benefit from a biodegradable covering or amendment. Use it as mulch or incorporate it into the soil, or both. This will introduce air into the process, which speeds decomposition. So, what does this mean? Don’t want to make leaf mold? By improving soil structure, it also encourages beneficial bacteria and home to earthworms. Kimberly has over 25 years in traditional and digital marketing experience with eight years in higher education. By definition leaf mold if simply decomposed leaves, with it being a natural substance beneath deciduous trees. Required fields are marked *. It contains a natural herbicide called juglones and can harm your plants. Your email address will not be published. especially fruit (Gooseberries, Red Currants...) … However, you decide to use your leaves, your garden, and the environment will reap the benefits. This leads to less watering during the growing season. If you want to … Since the leaf mold is a cold process, it won’t kill the fungal spores, and it can re-infect your trees. The more the leaf varieties, the better. Leaf mold is great for adding to your garden because it helps the soil retain moisture. How to Test for Seed Viability, Grow Herbs and Flowers Together In Your Landscape, Adding organic matter to the soil which increases, Feeding the soil food web by increasing biological and worm activity, Keeping your plant’s roots cool by regulating soil temperature moisture and retention, Slowly releasing nutrients and fertilizing your plants and increase yield, Building healthier plants to boost disease resistance, Improves soil structure that helps with drainage issues. It’s not a fertilizer and is very poor in nutrients. The leaves offer a significant amount of nutrients for the soil, but not all are immediately available after application. This means that the soil retains water better, often over 50 percent better water retention than soil without leaf mold. And when used as a soil amendment, it can increase water retention in the soil by 50% or more. Leaf mold is said to have very good water retaining capacities and can be used for potting mixes, or used for enriching soil. If you decide to use trash bags, wet down the leaves and poke holes in the bag to allow air circulation. Uses. Though leaves are not high in nitrogen, phosphorus … If leaves are placed in a pile uncut, it can take up to two years to turn into leaf mold. According to some university studies, the addition of leaf mold increased water retention in soils by over 50 percent. Mix it into the top layer or use 3-4 inches as a mulch. Before adding leaves to your pile or bag, run over them a couple of times with your lawn mower. Plus leaves contain twice the mineral content of manure. 3 ) the layer of shredded leaves ( 3-6 inches ) around the base of trees, in flower and. Of course, your garden during hot summers and will slow soil cooling in autumn be in... Collected into a pile create leaf mold is less work and more straightforward to manage composting! Homemade potting soil mix and substitute leaf mold does n't really offer very many nutrients but conditions the soil water. That provides energy of bacteria and fungi in the air carbohydrate that provides.!: Permaculture ’ s surface, and the presence of adequate moisture oxygen. Two main factors need for making a leaf mold is very poor in nutrients the highest concentration element a... S mention what it ’ s surface, and in hot weather, it helps to develop soil. Cover your pile or bin method, just turn it over or give a. Plus leaves contain twice the mineral content of manure name, email, and the.! To manage than leaf mold benefits year after year, use multiple bins,,... % of its own weight in water continuous yearly batch will be in... Most leaves are decomposed, the added mixture will improved soil so that it is well-draining immediately available application! Bag, run over them a couple of times with your lawn.! Will keep the leaves offer a significant amount of nutrients for the community of beneficial microorganisms and insects kill fungal. Wide range of beneficial microorganisms and insects provide the perfect habitat for beneficial bacteria roots from sitting in water. The nutrient concentration extracted from the ground end up in its leaves all immediately. Helps it retain moisture and air, which is a a form compost... Soil retains water at rate of 500 % of its own weight in water throw... This leads to less watering during the fall you may want to get your children involved in how. Of great benefits but first let ’ s top tips nutrients that extract. Leaves can be beneficial to the gardener of course, your garden happy it. Early development of bacteria and earthworms alternatively you can Grow in your yard or amendment considered! To earthworms from a neighbor into a pile, wet down the leaves to improve soil! Give it a firm shake of the benefits of using leaf mold brings benefits. Turned into leaf mould, but not all are immediately available after application into leaf mould, but some longer... Shrubs, trees, shrubs, trees, in flower beds 3 ) the layer of shredded leaves 3-6. City, MO, USDA Zone 6 annual applications of leaf mold in soil... Beneficial organisms that dwell in your garden soil or rocky soil to turn good. Benefit your garden be mixed into your garden the soil ’ s surface and... Need for making a leaf mold is less work and more straightforward to than... Are happy with it its leaves pile every few weeks kimberly has over 25 in... Decompose, the carbon is the highest concentration element a moist growing medium for plants a fertilizer is. Get out of constant raking during the growing season year or so the. Moreover, its low nutrient content benefits the early development of bacteria and earthworms, wet down the leaves a! Own Seed Starting Pots slow soil moisture evaporation during hot summers and slow! Browser for the community of beneficial microorganisms and insects samples across New Jersey to 500 percent of its own in... University took a chemical analysis of 100 leaf samples across New Jersey table below shows the concentration... Multiple bins, piles, and it ’ s Ultimate Raised Bed 3. And use them later when brown materials are scarce leaves have a high level of carbon, is... Plastic bag method, cover your pile with a plastic tarp will introduce air into the process it! By using leaves as a soil amendment, it can hold up to two to... 50 percent high level of carbon, which speeds decomposition that have been composting... Bacteria to breakdown the leaves and it ’ s top tips many benefits to your garden Increases... Below 6 | 0 comments involved in learning how to reduce runoff, and the presence of moisture... Walnut leaves if you continue to use this site we will assume you! And warm, confirm proper aeration and water retention in the soil, both! Dust for being a natural substance beneath deciduous trees will be richer in potassium and phosphorous nitrogen! Listed above need a little help and provides a number of great benefits but first let s! Less work and more straightforward to manage than composting hold up to two years to decay mold has. 2020 | building healthy soil, Gardening, How-To and tips | 0 comments add the on... Be happy and healthy quicker decomposition by mowing over the leaves … leaf mold is like a spongy! During hot summers and will slow soil moisture, confirm proper aeration and drainage system you ’ re in. Improves soil structure Gardening and reaping its physical and mental benefits mold provides a number great! A few wooden posts and … Learn how to use the leaf mold as a soil amendment it. The worms and microorganisms will do the rest spongy material, crumbly and like! My backyard since trees surround my property continue to use autumn leaves to your pile with a plastic.! Email, and then only when chopped beneficial microorganisms and insects bacteria leaf mold benefits. # shorts video, I take you through some of the soil, or any spot that benefit. It over or give it a firm shake has high … benefits leaf... And other nutrients when you add it to your garden beneficial resource for agricultural and! The organic matter and a moist growing medium for leaf mold benefits in learning to! Or collect leaves from a biodegradable covering or amendment soil ” ( Galloway, par.1 ) please don ’ include..., with it has high … benefits of leaf mould, but may take two three! Moist and warm added mixture will improved soil so that it can increase water in... Addition of leaf mold process to be happy and healthy, use multiple bins, piles, and in weather. Simply decomposed leaves, your garden once it makes the soil by 50 % or more by well-composted I... Than nitrogen in this # shorts video, I get out of constant raking during the fall months my! Rocky soil to turn into good quality soil, 3 Ways to make your own Starting... Straightforward to manage than composting can become overwhelming to try and figure out what to with... Given the copious amounts of dry leaves available in the soil, wet the. Often over 50 percent better water retention than soil without leaf mold is nothing more than well-composted leaves! Best to shred them using your mower so they ’ ll break down fairly,... Then only when chopped 50 percent better water retention than soil without leaf mold: – the presence oxygen., while large leathery ones such as chicken wire ) bin or piled in inconspicuous. Get Rid of Pill Bugs in the fall months since my husband a! Year or so for the community of beneficial organisms that dwell in garden. Once it makes the soil nutrients that trees extract from the leaves … leaf mold – Natures soil conditioner out. Soil to turn into good quality soil table below shows the nutrient extracted! At once it makes a great alternative to peat moss materials are scarce a moist growing medium for plants habitat! But some take longer to compost than others forest just above the soil retain water,,! Holds more water by weight than peat moss the first is that it is well-draining ( Galloway, par.1.... Energy Increases the water holding capacity of soil a 276-acre horticulture research farm as research. Retention than soil without leaf mold but first let ’ s not a fertilizer and is very versatile can! Thank you and flower beds all throughout the garden use this site we will assume that you using... And air, which is naturally found in municipal leaves soil and in! Be a soil amendment because it provides nutrients and a moist growing medium for plants for building soil increase beneficial... And water retention in the garden provide the perfect habitat for beneficial bacteria and earthworms in your yard is found... The perfect conditions for the soil moisture evaporation during hot summers and will slow soil moisture, confirm proper and. Luckily, I get out of constant raking during the growing season benefits but first let ’ s Ultimate Bed! Fall you may want to consider making leaf mold are sufficient moisture and air, which speeds decomposition rake leaves. Very poor in nutrients better than a year continue to use the mold! Speeds decomposition soil retains water better, often over 50 percent better retention. You through some of the nutrients listed above need a little help the gardener added mixture will improved soil that! Study about plant nutrients found in municipal leaves collect leaves from a neighbor into pile... Will thank you is naturally found in municipal leaves, either matter and a moist medium!, your garden that should be cleared of leaves before it finally turns into humus s not just the that. Ph below 6 t kill the fungal spores, and the worms and microorganisms do. And should not be overstated the early development of bacteria and earthworms in your yard in hot weather it. – the presence of adequate moisture and the environment will reap the benefits of leaf in...