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Leaf mold vs. compost with leaves?

Posted by pipperee 6am (My Page) on
Sat, Oct 26, 13 at 22:33

I am finally ready to take full advantage of the fall bounty of leaves, but am wondering what I should do with them. Leaf mold sounds lovely, but space is limited here, so I would have to accelerate the process so I could use them by next summer (shred and turn them regularly?), OR I could get coffee grounds from local shops to make a hot compost pile, OR I could shred and layer them in my beds to be dug in next spring - although I've heard this can deplete the N in the soil as they decompose (?). We can get long hard freezes here over the winter, so that's part of the mold equation for me.

I guess I really have few questions:
~is there any advantage of mold over compost?
~And could I actually make mold over a winter to be ready by next summer?
~And would it be good for my vegetable beds to add layers of un-composted shredded leaves? There are FAR more at my disposal than I can use, so I could even try all these things... I feel rich!

This post was edited by pipperee on Sat, Oct 26, 13 at 22:35


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Leaf mold vs. compost with leaves?

Leaf mold and compost are almost similar, although leaf mold is simply leaves piled up while compost is a mixture of vegetative waste that may include animal waste. If those leaves are shredded, and properly moistened, they may be mostly digested by spring depending somewhat on what kind of winter you have. Mixing other materials, particularly those with Nitrogen (coffee grounds, etc.), with the leaves will give the bacteria that will be digesting that material more food to work with which can increase the digestion rate and mean the compost will be done in the spring.
I never piled the leaves I did not compost up to make leaf mold since those extra leaves went on the garden beds as mulch and since conditions there were not conducive to the bacterial activity needed the leaves usually would last, as mulch, until about August. In my well draining sand that is an advantage.


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RE: Leaf mold vs. compost with leaves?

Thanks! I think I'll compost since I love seeing steam rising off the piles and am too impatient to wait for mold...


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RE: Leaf mold vs. compost with leaves?

Yeah, if you have a lack of space, leaf mold is not the way to go.

I use whatever leaves I can in the fall to make compost piles, also for winter mulch on the roses or layers over the garden beds so they are not bare. In spring, they end up in the compost bin with fresh greens. During winter, leaves are great to layer with your kitchen scraps, so keep a pile or cage of them handy next to your compost.


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RE: Leaf mold vs. compost with leaves?

  • Posted by TXEB 9a (My Page) on
    Mon, Oct 28, 13 at 15:17

wish I had leaves .... (((sigh)))


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RE: Leaf mold vs. compost with leaves?

In the 60' x 60' garden on our acerage we gather up around 100 large bags of leaves in Oct. and roto till them into the garden, the really dry crispy ones break up and work into the soil and the leaves that arn't dried out yet stay on the surface. when I till again in the middle of april (potatoe planting time) most of the leaves have deteriorate and will be by the time I plant the rest of the garden in the middle of May. Ive taken ugly rock hard or slimy clay and transformed my garden soil this way.


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RE: Leaf mold vs. compost with leaves?

I'm having trouble getting leaves, too, TX. I asked the lawn service we just signed on with, and ever since they took a beating over their use of Imprelis two years ago, they have a policy against letting customers take their leaves and grass clippings for compost. Back in the day, I had about 100 black trash bags packed with leaves/clippings and just lined them up around shrubs for winter protection. Come springtime, I'd open the bags and the fragrance was beautiful. Everything was already half composted.

The downside -- the grubs in those bags were almost as large as jumbo shrimp! I picked thousands of guys out of those bags!


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RE: Leaf mold vs. compost with leaves?

I have done both. Left a huge pile of leaves near the garden through the winter. Decayed matter under top leaves was gorgeous, dark, and quickly incorporated into my garden.

Compost bins had leaves, veggie scraps, chicken manure, etc. Made a very nice amendment as well.

IF you run out of room in your compost, by all means let the leaves decay in pile and utilize the matter in the spring.


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RE: Leaf mold vs. compost with leaves?

I like to do a bit of all of the above, shred the leaves and put around my palm trees and banana plants for the winter to keep the roots and corm insulated. I also put some aside in trash bags for use in the spring and I compost some in my bins. I also get lots of used coffee grounds and compost and directly put them around the plants.


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RE: Leaf mold vs. compost with leaves?

If you leave moist leaves in a garbage bag or other closed container, sometimes you get leaf mold without trying. I collected more last fall than I could use before it got too cold, and it just happened there in the dark garbage bags. Those ugly brown crustacian pill bugs went to work along with some centipedes and other bugs and I had pockets of leaf mold in the bags, along with some unprocessed leaves. I guess this is no surprise to many here, but I was impressed with the little buggers, they punctured the garbage bags on the bottom and went to work. I want to add that, I spread fall leaves around my trees and coat with pine needles I sometimes can collect at the leaf dump and the pine needles help the leaves stay in place. It helps me save money on mulch. I do use wood mulch also but I can use lots less of the wood mulch. I must also add that I mulch around nearly all my trees, so I may be the only nut who even cares to do that. But anyhoo, fall leaves under some other mulches can save money.


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RE: Leaf mold vs. compost with leaves?

Best thing for leaves are ground worms. If you have them. Worms will digest leaves and convert them into worm casting. But you have to have a good population of them. I mixed some into my raised beds. By next planting time (May 2014) those leaves will be either digested by the worm or by the soil microbes.


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