We are blessed with a LOT of trees here in the Pacific Northwest. We have not only evergreens which we are known for, but we also have lots of deciduous trees. This means we have lots of leaves to use in our gardens each year.
The leaves that fall at home I shred and use directly on the garden beds each fall…it makes a great winter mulch along with grass clippings.
The leaves that fall up at our lake cabin are a different story.
As we don’t have a garden at the cabin, and not wanting to waste such a great resource, I rake them, bag them, and haul them back home.
I take all my bags full of leaves out to the garden. Then I add a scoop of garden soil into each bag. I then poke a few holes in the top and a few in the bottom for drainage (wet Northwest winters) and I’m done…there they sit all fall and winter.
Leaves that are not shredded will take between 6 to 12 months to break down completely. I, having no patience what so ever, use mine at the 6 month mark. In the spring I open up my bags and find the leaves to be reduced by about half. I also find that a few worms have moved in through my drainage holes! I then use my leaf mold in my trenches, mounds, and pots in the garden.
Leaf mold itself does not have a lot of nutrients like compost does. But it is a marvelous soil conditioner. It improves your soil texture and helps tremendously with water retention. Leaf mold also is great for providing habitat for soil critters like earthworms and even beneficial bacteria!
Leaf mold is simple to make and free! So if you are lucky enough to have a tree or two…or a hundred…go get out your rakes and make yourself some leaf mold…your garden will thank you!