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June 19, 2017

Repurposing leaves to create leaf mould

In the fall of 2016, we were able to start the process of collecting leaves for the creation of leaf mould thanks to the help of the University of Nebraska bringing us truckloads of leaves.  The Nebraska Today ran a story about our work with them and you can find it here.  For those of you who are not familiar, it is essentially just composted leaves.  The leaves from deciduous and shrubs can be composted in two to three years depending on the type of leaves.  A large variety is never a problem and its difficult to collect too many leaves.  The leaves of evergreen and conifers take the longest and are best shredded first.

Make your own leaf bin

If you have a large garden with lots of trees, it may be worthwhile creating a dedicated leaf bin.

All you need is four stout tree stakes and a roll of galvanized chicken wire. Make a square frame by hammering the four stakes into the ground – the dimensions depend on the amount of leaves that normally fall in your garden and the available space, but a yard-square bin would allow you to collect plenty of leaves.

Wind the chicken wire around the frame and secure to the posts with galvanized U-shaped staples.

Snip off excess wire. Put on some gloves and fold in sharp edges to prevent cutting yourself when adding leaves to the bin.

How to use leaf mould

Open bags next autumn and you’ll find that leaves have changed into a crumbly material that is ideal to be used as mulch, helping to lock in soil moisture and prevent weeds from germinating.

At this stage the compost is still recognizable as leaves, but if you leave it another year, it will have rotted down further to a dark brown compost, which can be dug into the ground as a soil conditioner. This material contains high levels of humus, which help soil to retain moisture and enable it to hold onto nutrients.