How to Make Leaf Mold Compost

Overview

Leaf mold consists simply of fully decomposed leaves. While not especially rich in major nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, it does contain calcium, magnesium and other trace minerals, according to the Gardener's Supply Co. The main value leaf mold compost provides to your garden is as a physical amendment to allow soil to carry more air and water, ideal for plant roots. Instead of bagging autumn leaves for municipal collection, let nature help you create leaf mold with them.

Step 1

Drive the stakes with the mallet 1 foot in the ground to create an enclosure measuring 3 by 3 feet in a shady area of your yard. If you have a large yard with many trees, increase the size to 5 by 5 feet. Hammer staples through the poultry netting to the stakes and trim any excess netting with scissors.

Step 2

Line the enclosure with cardboard or plastic or weave in old window blind slats into the wire if you live in a dry climate, to retard evaporation.

Step 3

Rake the leaves and run a lawn mower over them several times to chop them up. This increases the amount of surface area for fungi to work on and speed decomposition.

Step 4

Throw the leaves into the cage in stages. Spray each layer of leaves with water to thoroughly water them. Fungi require a damp environment.

Step 5

Combine oak and holly leaves, slow to decompose, with other faster-decomposing leaves for best results.

Step 6

Turn the pile occasionally with a pitchfork or garden rake and spray with more water.

Step 7

Add nitrogen-rich elements to the carbon-rich leaf pile to speed decomposition. Choices include freshly fallen leaves, grass clippings and soybean meal.

Step 8

Apply the leaf mold when it converts to a crumbly brown-black material with an earthy scent. The bottom of the pile may be ready in a year if worms arrive and help with the breakdown process. The overall pile should be ready in two years.

Tips and Warnings

  • Don't use leaves that have rested on recently sprayed lawns, according to the Organic Gardening website. Add conifer and evergreen needles in small quantities only after chopping with a lawn mower, as they take two to three years to decompose.

Things You'll Need

  • 4 4-foot wooden stakes
  • Mallet
  • Roll of poultry netting, 25 by 3 feet
  • Cardboard or plastic
  • Scissors
  • 20 galvanized staples
  • Hammer
  • Rake
  • Lawn mower
  • Pitchfork or garden rake

References

  • Organic Gardening: Basic Leaf Mold
  • Fine Gardening: Making Leaf Mold
  • Gardener's Supply Company: Making Leaf Mold
  • Washington State University: Save Those Fallen Leaves and Make "Leaf Mold"
  • Bluegrass Gardens: Leaf Mold

Who Can Help

  • BBC Gardening Guides: Making Leaf Mould
  • Compost Guide: Using Leaves for Composting
  • Greenfingers.com: How to Make Leaf Mould
  • Paghat.com: Leaves & Leaf Mold, Nature's Mulch & Top-Coating
Keywords: making leaf mold, creating leaf compost, leaf mold process

About this Author

Rogue Parrish has written two travel books and edited at the "The Baltimore Sun," "The Washington Post" and the Alaska Newspapers company. She began writing professionally in 1975. Parrish holds a summa cum laude Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.