By Debbie Roland, Master Gardener
The Permian Basin will soon be raking and bagging leaves. If you don’t have a compost pile to put them in or a friend who wants them, why not make leaf mold? It is an excellent and free-soil amendment which will have a huge impact on your soil health and is simple to make.
Leaf mold is what happens when you let leaves decompose. It is dark brown to black, crumbly and has an earthy smell. Simply, it is composted leaves but instead of adding organic matter as you would in a compost pile you just use leaves.
It is a soil conditioner and increases water retention, improves soil structure, and provides a habitat for earthworms and beneficial bacteria.
You can pile your leaves into a 3′ square wood or wire bin and dampen the entire pile. Let it sit, checking the moisture level occasionally and adding water when necessary.
The second method requires a large plastic garbage bag. Fill the bag with leaves and moisten them. Seal the bag and cut some slits in the bag for air flow. Now just let it sit. Check the bag every week and add water if the leaves are dry. After a few months you will have finished leaf mold.
If you are an impatient person, run over the leaves with your lawn mower before adding to the bin or bag since smaller pieces will decompose faster. You can also turn the leaves in the bin with a spade or turn the plastic bag over frequently. If you are using a bin cover your pile with a plastic tarp which will keep the leaves moist and warm.
When ready to use, your leaf mold can be turned into the soil or used as a mulch in beds, gardens, or containers.