The Q&A Archives: Making Leaf Mold

Question: I read somewhere that you can create your own leaf mold/organic matter to add to the soil. The process was simply putting leaves in a garbage bag and poking holes in it for air. Then you let it sit a few months and the leaves will decompose. Would you have to add water or soil or anything else to help it? Can I do this with all the leaves I rake up? I have a storage shed I could put them in over the winter. (I don't have a compost pile yet, or I would put them in there.) Thanks.

Answer: Leaf mold is simply partially decomposed leaves. Leaves in a simple pile outdoors will eventually become leaf mold all on their own, just as they would on the ground in the forest.

In my experience, simply putting the leaves in a bag for a few months does not work at all. They will need to be dampened and, since leaves are very high in carbon, you will also need to add a source of nitrogen (such as fertilizer or fresh barnyard manure) in order for them to begin to compost. They should be stored well above freezing, because the colder the temperature the slower the process; warm temperatures are really best. Chopping the leaves will also speed things up, as will stirring the mixture from time to time.

Instead of composting the leaves, you could simply chop them and use them as mulch or as a soil amendment, digging them in lightly. They will break down over time and feed the soil that way, too.

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