How to make leaf mulch
Turn fallen leaves into gardener's growing gold.
To continue with our leave theme, we want to share with you how to make use of nature’s fallen gold.
Although fallen leaves can be time consuming, we have shown how you can use leaves to have a little fun prior to using them to grow in your garden.
Rather than just let them serve no purpose, you can make use of them to make superb leaf mulch, ideal for any garden.
What is Leaf Mulch?
Let us first consider the benefits of leaf mulch, Leaf mulch is incredibly useful in the garden, having numerous uses, it can be used to improve soil, suppress weeds, act as a blanket against frost, or as a component in your own potting soil mix.
Leaf mulch is made from the leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs, the type that drops its leaves in fall. It is worth noting that thicker deciduous leaves and evergreen leaves take longer to rot down, so they should be added to your main compost heap where they’ll rot down faster due to higher temperatures.
Although some leaves are not suitable for leaf mulch and due to the chemicals they release should not be used in the construction of leaf mulch.
These include black walnut, eucalyptus, camphor laurel and cherry laurel.
How to collect leaves for Leaf Mulch?
Collect leaves from almost anywhere they fall, however we would refrain from collecting leaves from busy roads as they may contain pollutants that could harm your plants.
Using a spring-tine rake or a leaf blower, collect leaves into piles then scoop them up by hand or using improvised grabbers such as large pieces of cardboard (you could use the cardboard for a lasagne garden post leaf collection)
We have found that an excellent way to start the breakdown process is to mow them with a lawnmower on its highest height setting. The blades will chop the leaves into small pieces that help speed the leaf mulch along its way to compost.. If you’re collecting the leaves as you mow them be aware that the collection bag can become heavy quickly, particularly if the leaves are damp, so you’ll need to empty the bag often.
How to make Leaf Mulch
Now the part that will make all the difference to your garden. Leaf mulch is simple to make. First construct a leaf mulch cage to contain your leaves while allowing plenty of air to reach them. One method would be to hammer four corner posts into the ground, then staple chicken wire or mesh to the posts. It will normally take about two years for leaves to rot down into leaf mulch, but we have seen leaves turn into mulch much sooner, depending on leaf mulch designs and weather.
An even simpler solution, for small amounts of leaves, is to stuff them into sturdy garbage sacks. Squash the leaves right down into the sack, tie it shut, and puncture it several times with a garden fork. Pop the sacks somewhere out of the way where they will remain undisturbed for a couple of years.
Benefits of Leaf Mulch
1. Improve soil. Within two to three years, your leaves should have rotted down into dark, crumbly leaf mulch. Spread it thickly on the soil surface and lightly fork it in. Beneficial soil organisms will then incorporate it fully into the soil. Leaf mulch will enhance any soil type, improving drainage in heavy clay soils and helping to retain moisture in light, sandy soils.
2. Mulch. Leaf mulch that is between one and two years old will only be partially broken down, but at this stage it can be spread as a mulch to suppress weeds and gradually improve your soil. Lay it 1-2 inches thick around fruit trees and bushes or other perennial plants.
3. Potting soil mixes. Sieve finished leaf mulch to remove any lumps and debris. Mix the fine sieved leaf mulch with compost and weed-free topsoil, and use it for growing crops in containers or when transplanting young plants.
4.However, you can use the chopped-up leaves as a blanket over the winter, we have put them on top of garden beds to help reduce the impact of frost, and then either scraped them off or simply dug them into the soil.
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