Leaf Mold Magic, April GBBD pg. 63 – 69

Leaves and pine needles are easy to collect, abundant, and free. What they give back to the garden and landscape is necessary and enriching. Many municipalities gather leaves in fall and compost them down to return to residents in the community as soil building amendment. If you are lucky enough to live in a forward thinking town, take advantage. If not, it is simple enough to store and make your own.

All it takes is a little brushing away the upper, uncomposted leaves on the forest floor to get you hooked. The images above show a moist, springy, loose textured black soil in two local forests teeming with earthworms, and small insects. They scurried away to the cover of safety before I could get the camera focused. Earthworms burrowed out of sight in mere seconds. The top image has one earthworm that was still slightly visible, but there had to be over 30 in this small area.  All were basking in the warmth of the leaves on top of the moist soil. The black Earth is the best around, just ask all the insects and microorganisms who make their homes there.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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19 Responses to Leaf Mold Magic, April GBBD pg. 63 – 69

  1. I have a bin for making leaf mold, but I always go through the leaves too quickly for compost. I found the best solution is to gather up my neighbor’s leaves and chop them up with the mower and dump them on top of the beds in the fall. I do this in my woodland areas as applying compost to these places, while ideal, isn’t practical.

    I do a small community service for an older neighbor with a large sugar pine down the street and a double lot. I go over and rake out her beds and the lawn area and I get to keep all those needles for mulch. I prefer the sugar pine as they are much finer than Austrian or Scotch. With the latter, I find I have to chop them first before I can use them, but I can just lay the Sugar pine straw right down.

  2. Each fall when we rake up our many, many leaves my husband mulches some with the mower and we lay it out in the woodland garden. It significantly improves the quality of our red clay so that it becomes more desirable soil. The rest of the leaves we leave in the natural areas of our garden. I use pine straw in certain areas in my garden, especially slopes and around my roses. I really liked this post…touches on the less glorious but one of the most important elements to a good garden.

  3. Masha says:

    Great post. I collect leaves from my trees, shred and store them in plastic bags (they get little if any mold) and then spread them as mulch in my beds. You are right, they are a great amendment, and if shredded, break down very fast.

  4. Laurrie says:

    It’s amazing how something so grubby, dirty and decomposing can be so beautiful, rich and fascinating. Your forest-in-winter photos add to the beauty of the decaying wonder under out feet.

  5. debsgarden says:

    Excellent post! Leaf mold is something my yard is blessed with in abundance. You are right; the earthworms love it! And I also like to use pine straw as a mulch around my shrubs and trees. it has a wonderful smell.

  6. b-a-g says:

    Donna , Thanks for this useful information. I’ve never seen a forest floor and I didn’t know that leaves left to decompose on the soil would draw nitrogen out. I like to run my fingers through soil, but the problem is I can only deal with earthworms at arms length, wearing a thick glove. I keep trying to convince myself that earthworms are garden helpers, but it hasn’t worked so far.

  7. I love leafmold, but have a terrible tendency to forget to stir the mix up, so it tends to take even longer to break down. Didn’t realise the way leaves left on borders suck out nitrogen – will have to use my leaf sucker more, which also cuts them up. Great post!

  8. Courtney says:

    Great post! i have lots of pine needles…. great to know I can put them to use!

  9. One says:

    Thanks for sharing. I wish I have pine needles. I have willow leaves though. I like the willow leaves because they are fine and so need not be shredded. Just wondering, would adding used coffee grounds or some fresh grass clippings speed up the process of decomposing the leaves? I normally mix stuff up.

  10. I agree with others a great post, sort of the roots of gardening, I am only just starting to get a very wee bit of leafmold now some of the trees I planted are growing, I have often wondered 2 things that have been answered here thanks Donna,
    1 what is the pine straw I keep reading about on north american blogs, am I right thinking now that it’s fallen pine needles,
    2 can I use the many pine needles under my lodge pole pines in other parts of the garden and you say yes Donna, thanks, Frances

  11. Karen says:

    Donna, I wholeheartedly agree, nothing better than leaves for enriching the soil. I wish more people knew this; I hate it in the fall when people have piles of perfectly good leaves burning or piled up by the curb in the city for the trash. If they only knew they were throwing away black gold. We use our pine needles exclusively for mulching last year and were very happy, I love the look of them as opposed to the psychedelically colored mulches people purchase!

  12. Donna says:

    Well I will have to convince my husband to get the mower out after I pick them all up and mulch them…easier said than done…I may just put them in bags at the back of the garden gazebo…

  13. Donna, Excellent post on composting your leaves and the benefits of both leaves and pine needles. The more information out there on this topic the better. I have had no problem with leaving leaves in my beds though. I no longer clean out my more informal areas, which is most of my garden, and the plants remain healthy and matting isn’t a problem—even the most delicate woodland plants poke through. Carolyn

  14. Dear Donna, I love this post. I feel a little guilty though, that I don’t always follow through and miss out on acquiring some of the best compost. I wasn’t able to go to Phila today, as I have the grandchildren for spring break, but am thinking of going on May 5th when you are there. P x

  15. Nell Jean says:

    The best part of gardening is the least glamourous.

  16. dona says:

    Very interesting and informative. Thanks, Donna!

  17. Jess says:

    Now that I got rid of the southern magnolia (whose leaves took, hmmm 15 years to decompose!) the leaves in my back garden were left down this fall, and a short 4 months later were mostly well rotted!

  18. Missy says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more. The great forests of the world are enriched with leaf litter and leaf mould. – Best soil conditioner and plant food you can get.

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