Leaf mulch

some time back around December, a few posters were extolling the virtues of leaf mulch. One person (paghat, I think it was) mentioned putting the leafs into a chicken wire enclosure and keeping them wet, claiming that they would break down in a few months into leaf mulch.
Well, I went into the chicken wire enclosure, and found piles of wet leaves and no leaf mulch. Doesn't look like anything happened at all over the past few months. Packed about 40 bags of dead leaves and dropped them off at the landfill.
So, what is the secret??? Obviously getting leaf mulch from leaves seems to be more of an involved process than just stacking the leaves, keeping them wet and turning every now and then.
Anyone know???
Thanks !!!
Peter
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<Peter> wrote in message

of leaf mulch.

chicken wire

few months

Do you mean leaf mold? If that is what you mean then leaf mold takes quite a bit longer. From what I understand the earliest is one year before you see any signs of composted leaves. Its quite easy to create: leave in a pile and forget for a year or two.
When referring the leaves as a mulch people are usually putting shredded leaves around the base of plants. The general purpose of this would be for water retention, soil protection, and fertilizer. They are shredded by lawn mower, shredders, and chipper/grinders.
Fito
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<Peter> wrote in message

of leaf mulch.

chicken wire

few months

leaves and no

months.
to be more

and turning

You need to introduce some "green" stuff to get the pile hot. The easiest I've found is to use rabbit food, which is mostly alfalfa meal. I get a couple of $5 bags from the feed store, soak it in water and distribute it in layers with the leaves. The pile gets hot and steamy in a day or so. I covered mine in plastic to retain the moisture and heat and I had usable compost in about three months...
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Leaves are basically a big pile of carbon. The process of breakdown will be limited by cooler temps temperature, moisture, and supplies of oxygen, nitrogen, etc. Turning the pile is key to entrain oxygen and evacuate CO2 so the decomp fauna is not dominated by anaerobic microbes.
--
Mike LaMana, MS
Heartwood Consulting Services, LLC
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On Thu, 22 Apr 2004 09:51:38 -0400, Peter <> wrote:

You took 40 bags of good organic material and threw it in a landfill with the other toxic elements? What were you thinking?
Just kidding, with a little ribbing. I'm too lazy to do such a thing so its easy for me to laugh. I do think its a waste of good material, 40 bags worth! It may be good for the landfill to get some good organics in there to mutate:)

Obviously one secret is a little patience. A few months, especially over the winter, is not a long time to wait for leaves to break down. Another secret is maintaining green vs brown, proper moisture, size, light, etc. THat can speed things up a lot.
Except for trying to get a reasonable mix of green vs brown, I don't bother much myself. Not enough patience for that. I place piles out of the way, and do eventually get some good dark compost. I don't know exactly how long. Just eventually, and I can wait.
If you're willing to take on the work to drag 40 bags worth of leaves to the landfill, then the work it takes to turn them into good mulch instead is well within you're grasp.

Swyck
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Peter wrote:

It would help to chop up the leaves. Pile up the leaves, run the mower over it and then use it in your pile. Breaks down *much* quicker. If you are looking to get it done quickly, you would need to balance the browns with some greens - used coffee grounds from Starbucks (they have a 'Grounds for the Garden' program) works great. Me, I get the chopped up leaves from the county leaf mulch pile, pile it on my flower beds, and over time, it all breaks down into yummy stuff. The plants love it.
Suja
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seems to be more

wet and turning

I usually let fallen leaves serve as totally natural autumn & winter mulch. If I need to get the leaves off cyclamen beds, I rake them over some other location that won't feel smothered. In our wet winters, the leaves turn to leafmold right in the garden by winter's end, contact with moist ground being sufficient. Unless there are LARGE leaves they won't need chopping, but large leaves can become a water-barriers, which can be a good thing for areas with bulbs that aren't fond of as much dampness as winter brings them here.
For extra leaves what I've done is stuff them wet in plastic bags, shove the sealed bags back in the crawlspace under the deck, & a year or so later they come out prefect black leafmold. I do put a little bit of moist soil in the sacks but only to make sure whiteworms are introduced. Whiteworms are miniature earthwoms that just LOVE to live in piles of leaves & greatly assist the break-down into leafmold; dry ground wouldn't have such beasties & leaves won't reduce down to leafmold without SOMEthing alive that helps leaves rot away. After a year bagged in the crawlspace, only have to open the bag a bit to see if smells all right. If it does not smell quite nice, it's not ready, so back in the crawlspace the bags stay a bit longer. When finished though this is the sweetest-smelling crumbly black stuff that looks great spread over the surface of a planting bed. One never gets much at a time though; a big bag of leaves breaks down into only one bucket of leafmold.
The chicken wire trick if kept moist ought to work fine, but only the leaves compacted on the bottom are reduced to leafmold with any speed, where worms & fungus interact best with the dead leaves. For the whole pile it won't happen as quickly as if they were sealed in bags, & the only real purpose of the chickenwire is to make it possible to stack the leaves higher in a finite space for a year or two, without them blowing away or spreading out over too large an area.
They can also of course be used as "browns" in regular compost, though you end up with more compost instead of leafmold. Pure leafmold is dark & very pretty. It is also almost devoid of nitrogen, but works as a fertilizer not by being itself much of a plant food, but by encouraging nitrogen-manufacturing microbial activity in the garden.
-paghat the ratgirl
--
"Of what are you afraid, my child?" inquired the kindly teacher.
"Oh, sir! The flowers, they are wild," replied the timid creature.
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For mulch, I just rake leaves from my lawn and walkways into the flower and shrub beds. The older leaves (close to the soil) decompose and help acidify my otherwise alkaline soil. The newer leaves keep the soil cool and moist in our hot summers. If I can get the layer of leaves thick enough, they also prevent most weed seeds from sprouting.
This mulch is especially good around my camellias. However, the wind sometimes removes it, so I cover it with bird mesh pegged down with the wire hooks used to hold jute netting on hillsides.
My oak in front also appreciates a leaf mulch. There, I carefully place fallen dead branches to hold the mulch in place.
Excess leaves go in my compost pile. It has little or no green matter, so the compost is almost pure leafmold. Once a month or so, I stir it with a spading fork and then water it. Every so often, I toss a handful of high-nitrogen fertilizer onto the pile and rinse it in. It takes about six months before I can sift it (1/4-inch mesh) into a barrel for storage. I always leave some compost unsifted to help the next batch of leaves to start rotting.
--
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
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On Thu, 22 Apr 2004 09:51:38 -0400, Peter <> wrote:

Leaf mulch is just that--leaf mulch, but leaf mold is something very special. Wow Peter! I can't believe you took "gardener's gold" to the landfill! Leaf mold is probably the best form of humus, ranking first in comparison to other forms of humus including composted manures. Although you can gather leaf mold from the woodlands, it is unwise to do so. I have never seen any leaf mold sold in stores nor co-ops, but you can make your own. You have everything needed and the procedure correct, all except for one ingredient--patience. After the first year, you get a little leaf mold, but the second year something happens. The leaf structure breaks down to a mass of very fertile black humus. Warm weather greatly speeds the decomposition. Leaf mold made in this manner will contain 45 to 55% of mineral-like substances. As soon as the leaf mold is ready, dry it out else it will continue to decompose and disappear. Before you can use it for houseplants, it must be screened, sterilized, dried, and screened again. The volume of leaves to leaf mold is about 30 to 1. One part leaf mold should be used for 5 parts potting soil. Do not use limestone on the leaves--it won't speed the process and possibly ruin the humus composition.
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You have to put some form of nitrogen on them. Coffee grounds, vegetable peelings, lawn clippings, etc.
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I'd like to say a big "Thank You" to all who responded. (Sorry it took so long, the computer system was overwhemed with all the microsoft patches and nothing worked outside of the operating system).
Lots of good information, and different veiwpoints / methods of turning the leaves into mold. I have plenty of leaves but few places to store them for any period of time... so many of the suggestions will be put to use this coming fall and hopefully, there will be a lot of good organic material to be added to the garden beds each year.
Thanks again for taking the time to help out a fellow gardener...
Peter
On Thu, 22 Apr 2004 09:51:38 -0400, Peter <> wrote:

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