leaf mould or compost

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willowman

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  • Location: North Cambs Fens, nr Peterborough
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leaf mould or compost
« on: November 02, 2009, 07:46 »
The willow has now started shedding its leaves and in previous years I've gathered them up, put them into bags and tried to make leaf mould. Not been very successful tho. 1st year them bags started to rot and fall apart, 2nd year about half turned to leaf mould, the rest were just leaves.

Why do we make leaf mould? Is it better than just putting leaves on the compost heap and rotting them down? What is the difference please?
I started out with nothing.....and I've still got most of it.

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tode

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Re: leaf mould or compost
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2009, 08:46 »
As I understand it, the composting process needs air for the bacteria and things to work well. They also need nitrogen (from the green stuff) and phosphates to feed on and heat up the pile.
Dead leaves are virtually just cellulose and lignins, and if added in large quantities to the compost will deplete the nitrogen and may even stop the process. (the same as wood chips).

It's also the reason why a lot of dead leaves (or wood) shouldn't be ¨ixed directly in the soil: it will consume the nitrogen.

When you make leaf mold, there is no composting process: it's all done by fungi, which is why it doesn't heat up, and takes longer to complete.

Best leaf-mold is made with just leaves (as in the forest), but I find if you collect the leaves (and some grass) with the mower then they rot down a bit faster, and the grass holds the pile together, they don't blow about so much.  Also pack em down really hard so no air can get in, and keep nice and damp.

My leaf pile from last Autumn are just about ready now, and although it's quite a long process, it's a lot less work than compost (no turning etc).

Willow leaves, being finer, seem to break down a lot faster than poplar.


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Ivah

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Re: leaf mould or compost
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2009, 08:49 »
I think time is the main difference. Leaves take longer to rot down than most other compost. Leaves on their own take 18 months to two years. If you can chop them up a bit, perhaps by the lawnmower method, you can blend them into the compost heap and as long as the proportion is not too great  it will be OK to use in less than a year but I wouldn't put many in now if I wanted to use the heap in the Spring. I use leaf mould as a mulch in the flower garden as it improves the soil with less risk of increasing the weeds. I put all sorts in my compost and prefer to bury it under the vegetables, I don't mulch the veg plots preferring to hoe.
'Nullius in verba' - 'Take nobody's word for it'

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Goosegirl

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Re: leaf mould or compost
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2009, 16:23 »
I use black plastic bin bags with air holes punched in the sides and pack the leaves in really well until full - the leaves need to be wet to rot down. You can also make a pen with chicken wire and tramp the leaves down into it and don't cover it.
Spring always comes when we sow the seeds of life.

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Zippy

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Re: leaf mould or compost
« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2009, 21:35 »
I have two years worth of leaves in a chicken wire pen, covered with a piece of carpet to let rain in but keep the pile nicley compacted. Looking forward to using them next year on my no-dig potato beds to shut light out from the tubers.



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