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Old 06-02-2003, 02:53 PM
mmarteen
 
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Default leaf mold and compost

I just finished reading Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman (not that my
expectations are that high here in MN) and he advocates using scraps and
straw to make compost and using leaves to make leaf mold. Leaf mold seems
to be a much more lengthy process from the way he describes it in the book,
where you have to keep leaves sort of composting by themselves for over a
year.

If I am already going to make compost and I am not running an organic farm
like Coleman, should I try to make leaf mold or just compost some and bag
the rest? Opinions?

Other than chopping up the leaves, is there anything else I can do to make
the process go faster? For example, will a tumbling composter, either
storebought or homemade, make the process go faster just as with compost?

mm



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Old 06-02-2003, 04:32 PM
animaux
 
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Default leaf mold and compost

I have two or three things going on in my garden at the same time. The leaves I
collected last year in the garbage of the hoi palloy who rake everything into
sterility are now ready as leaf mold. I use that on shrubs and trees to provide
the worms something readily available.

I have another pile going of the free, shredded pine trees they give away for
free at the city of Austin. That is all the foliage from the trees (needles)
and wood which is fresh, almost green. Together, those make a nice hot compost
after about two months.

Then there's the compost which comes naturally from spent stems, flower heads,
ornamental grasses. I leave that debris right where I cut it from, around the
individual plants.

Another pile which is going comes from two bales of alfalfa hay which I leave to
rot down on it's own. I can make tea from it, or dress it into the soil around
trees and shrubs to give a low, nitrogen boost in the fall. I use the bales to
do what's called Haybale Gardening. I grow melons in the bales. They rot down
and I use the rotted hay.

So, to answer your question I'd have to say you should do what you are
comfortable with, taking into consideration how much room you have. I have half
acre. I have plenty of room for brush piles here and there and compost heaps.
You can buy a pricey tumbler, but why. If you don't want to buy a tumbler, you
can get out with a pitchfork every weekend and turn the leaves. Always make
sure they are somewhat moist, never dried out. It's a delicate balance of
moisture you need to achieve if you want to make leaf mold.


On Thu, 6 Feb 2003 08:53:13 -0600, "mmarteen" wrote:

I just finished reading Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman (not that my
expectations are that high here in MN) and he advocates using scraps and
straw to make compost and using leaves to make leaf mold. Leaf mold seems
to be a much more lengthy process from the way he describes it in the book,
where you have to keep leaves sort of composting by themselves for over a
year.

If I am already going to make compost and I am not running an organic farm
like Coleman, should I try to make leaf mold or just compost some and bag
the rest? Opinions?

Other than chopping up the leaves, is there anything else I can do to make
the process go faster? For example, will a tumbling composter, either
storebought or homemade, make the process go faster just as with compost?

mm


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Old 06-02-2003, 06:01 PM
paghat
 
Posts: n/a
Default leaf mold and compost

In article , "mmarteen"
wrote:

I just finished reading Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman (not that my
expectations are that high here in MN) and he advocates using scraps and
straw to make compost and using leaves to make leaf mold. Leaf mold seems
to be a much more lengthy process from the way he describes it in the book,
where you have to keep leaves sort of composting by themselves for over a
year.

If I am already going to make compost and I am not running an organic farm
like Coleman, should I try to make leaf mold or just compost some and bag
the rest? Opinions?

Other than chopping up the leaves, is there anything else I can do to make
the process go faster? For example, will a tumbling composter, either
storebought or homemade, make the process go faster just as with compost?

mm


If you built a wide round wire bin five feet tall & filled it to the top
with leaves, by the time they were leafmold, the pile would have reduced
to less than one foot tall. Pure leafmold can also be had by cramming as
many damp leaves as possible into a black plastic bag with a dash of
nitrogen fertilizer mixed in if you really think it needs speeding up, &
shoving them into some out of the way crawlspace for half a year or so.
Pure leafmold is a more wonderful thing than compost per se. It's very
black & crumbly & makes a splendid attractive topcoating for the whole
garden.

It's also quite suitable to just rake the leaves in autumn into places
where mulch is needed & spread it out thinly between plants, letting it
turn to leafmold in situ.

I'd love to have a tumbling composter if they didn't cost much, but I
wouldn't waste its small space with leaves, which with our weather
patterns break down into leafmold by spring if left on the ground as a
mild mulch, & even as a pile don't demand stirring to remain aerated
enough to break down with narry an unpleasant smell.

Leaves of oaks, japanese maples, fruit trees, birches, beeches & so on
need no chopping up whatsoever, their break-down speed is quick
regardless. Enormous-leafed trees if the leaves are used as mulch might
occasionally be too much of a rain barrier if not chopped up, but I
wouldn't think it necessary to go to the extra work of chopping them up
merely to make leafmold in bags or bins or piles.

-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.
-from Peter Newell's "Wild Flowers"
See the Garden of Paghat the Ratgirl: http://www.paghat.com/
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Old 06-02-2003, 06:31 PM
nan
 
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Default leaf mold and compost

I do not think that you can hurry along the leaf mold. It does take
time - about 2 or 3 years where I live, but the resulting leaf mould
is well worth the wait. I use it for the woodland plants. If the
summer is long, hot and lots of rain then leaf mould will be made much
quicker.

I find that whole leaves decompose rather poorly in the compost pile.
I prefer to keep them separate, and as they do shrink down very
quickly, it does not take up any room at all. One little wire bin
about 4' x 4' will hold many many leaves from quite a few big trees.
Two years worth can be put in the same bin as the last years' will
have shrunk down quite a lot over just one year. It will not be leaf
mould until it is all crumbly. I do not think that this type of
decompostion benefits at all from aeration like the regular compost
pile. I always keep it well compacted and water it a bit if I am near
with the hose, in the "heat" of summer.

"mmarteen" wrote in message ...
I just finished reading Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman (not that my
expectations are that high here in MN) and he advocates using scraps and
straw to make compost and using leaves to make leaf mold. Leaf mold seems
to be a much more lengthy process from the way he describes it in the book,
where you have to keep leaves sort of composting by themselves for over a
year.

If I am already going to make compost and I am not running an organic farm
like Coleman, should I try to make leaf mold or just compost some and bag
the rest? Opinions?

Other than chopping up the leaves, is there anything else I can do to make
the process go faster? For example, will a tumbling composter, either
storebought or homemade, make the process go faster just as with compost?

mm

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Old 06-02-2003, 08:56 PM
mmarteen
 
Posts: n/a
Default leaf mold and compost

Thanks for the ideas, it does sound like leaf mold is worth the wait.

[snip]

If you built a wide round wire bin five feet tall & filled it to the top
with leaves, by the time they were leafmold, the pile would have reduced
to less than one foot tall. Pure leafmold can also be had by cramming as
many damp leaves as possible into a black plastic bag with a dash of
nitrogen fertilizer mixed in if you really think it needs speeding up, &
shoving them into some out of the way crawlspace for half a year or so.
Pure leafmold is a more wonderful thing than compost per se. It's very
black & crumbly & makes a splendid attractive topcoating for the whole
garden.

[snip]

If I were to take the black plastic bag approach, what nitrogen fertilizer
would you recommend? Would bloodmeal work?

Thanks again!

mm




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Old 06-02-2003, 10:56 PM
simy1
 
Posts: n/a
Default leaf mold and compost

"mmarteen" wrote in message ...
I just finished reading Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman (not that my
expectations are that high here in MN) and he advocates using scraps and
straw to make compost and using leaves to make leaf mold. Leaf mold seems
to be a much more lengthy process from the way he describes it in the book,
where you have to keep leaves sort of composting by themselves for over a
year.


You can probably do it (4-season gardening) but you need a lot of
space (so that your beds are full of veggies come november, then you
will harvest them without new growth through march) and you will also
need double layering. In Michigan I do single layering (poly tunnels),
and I harvested the last collards two weeks ago. What stopped me is
that I grazed the beds down to the ground. If I had more beds, I would
still be grazing.

To do double layering, you have to have one poly layer outside and
one inside. The air gap insulation will buy you three zones, you will
be in Zone 7, and there are lots of veggies that you can grow outside
in the winter in Zone 7. I am in Zone 5 this year (but Zone 6 in
previous years), and I am overwintering radicchio and mache outside
the tunnels.


If I am already going to make compost and I am not running an organic farm
like Coleman, should I try to make leaf mold or just compost some and bag
the rest? Opinions?

Other than chopping up the leaves, is there anything else I can do to make
the process go faster? For example, will a tumbling composter, either
storebought or homemade, make the process go faster just as with compost?

mm


Leaf mold has a low nutrient content. It depends on what you want to
do. Leaves, in my mind, are good for three things:

1) start seedlings (I also use sifted, months-old manure, as well as
regular potting soil) in leaf mold

2) mulch around veggies (whole leaves) for moisture retention and

3) soil conditioning, specially for heavy clay (they will encourage
soil breakdown by worms) (also whole leaves are best)

If you want to fertilize, you are better off getting something else
(grass clippings, kitchen scraps, any manure, even wood chips).

There are also other ways to fasten leaves decay. Amongst those,
mixing them with grass clippings or urea. But what is the point of
doing that, if you are going to use them as mulch? Let us know what
you want to do.
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Old 07-02-2003, 12:44 AM
mmarteen
 
Posts: n/a
Default leaf mold and compost


"simy1" wrote in message
om...
"mmarteen" wrote in message

...
I just finished reading Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman (not that

my
expectations are that high here in MN) and he advocates using scraps and
straw to make compost and using leaves to make leaf mold. Leaf mold

seems
to be a much more lengthy process from the way he describes it in the

book,
where you have to keep leaves sort of composting by themselves for over

a
year.


You can probably do it (4-season gardening) but you need a lot of
space (so that your beds are full of veggies come november, then you
will harvest them without new growth through march) and you will also
need double layering. In Michigan I do single layering (poly tunnels),
and I harvested the last collards two weeks ago. What stopped me is
that I grazed the beds down to the ground. If I had more beds, I would
still be grazing.

To do double layering, you have to have one poly layer outside and
one inside. The air gap insulation will buy you three zones, you will
be in Zone 7, and there are lots of veggies that you can grow outside
in the winter in Zone 7. I am in Zone 5 this year (but Zone 6 in
previous years), and I am overwintering radicchio and mache outside
the tunnels.


That's what I am planning on doing, hoops or a coldframe and then another
layer wth poly. I found that discussion in the book very enlightening.


If I am already going to make compost and I am not running an organic

farm
like Coleman, should I try to make leaf mold or just compost some and

bag
the rest? Opinions?

Other than chopping up the leaves, is there anything else I can do to

make
the process go faster? For example, will a tumbling composter, either
storebought or homemade, make the process go faster just as with

compost?

mm


Leaf mold has a low nutrient content. It depends on what you want to
do. Leaves, in my mind, are good for three things:

1) start seedlings (I also use sifted, months-old manure, as well as
regular potting soil) in leaf mold

2) mulch around veggies (whole leaves) for moisture retention and


I would like it for this.

3) soil conditioning, specially for heavy clay (they will encourage
soil breakdown by worms) (also whole leaves are best)


but probably primarily this since we are building on an infill lot that has
been sodded for 5 years. I am sure the soil will need improvement. As soon
as we lose some of the snow cover, i will be collecting samples to test, but
I am trying to budget my gardening needs and making a landscape plan and I
need to make sure I have adequate space for compost piles and leaf mold
piles, if needed. I am not sure I will be able to generate enough compost to
improve the whole property so leaf mold would be great too, particularly in
the shady front yard. I will find out about community sources of compost
once I get going.


If you want to fertilize, you are better off getting something else
(grass clippings, kitchen scraps, any manure, even wood chips).




There are also other ways to fasten leaves decay. Amongst those,
mixing them with grass clippings or urea. But what is the point of
doing that, if you are going to use them as mulch? Let us know what
you want to do.


As a soil nutrient primarily.



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Old 07-02-2003, 04:15 AM
B & J
 
Posts: n/a
Default leaf mold and compost

"mmarteen" wrote in message
...
I just finished reading Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman (not that my
expectations are that high here in MN) and he advocates using scraps and
straw to make compost and using leaves to make leaf mold. Leaf mold seems
to be a much more lengthy process from the way he describes it in the

book,
where you have to keep leaves sort of composting by themselves for over a
year.

If I am already going to make compost and I am not running an organic farm
like Coleman, should I try to make leaf mold or just compost some and bag
the rest? Opinions?

Other than chopping up the leaves, is there anything else I can do to make
the process go faster? For example, will a tumbling composter, either
storebought or homemade, make the process go faster just as with compost?

mm


When I lived in zone 3, northern MN, I found composting in a holding area,
even by adding green material, was a slow process. It took a couple of
years. Too cold? G Finally I gave up trying the "normal" way of composting
and found that working leaves directly into the soil where I wanted humus
worked. In the fall I would first till the soil before spreading the chopped
leaves that I collected with the mower on top and till them directly into
the soil. By the following spring most of the leaves were composted unless I
became too enthusiastic and piled them too high in a given area. I turned
sand into great garden soil by doing this. My neighbors were great in
"allowing" me to collect their leaves in the fall. BTW, the leaves I
collected came from paper birch and maples, which decompose far more rapidly
than the oak leaves of my present zone.

John


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Old 07-02-2003, 10:13 AM
Compostman
 
Posts: n/a
Default leaf mold and compost

I discovered leaf mold by accident. Starting a couple of Falls ago, I
collected lots of bags of leaves in the neighborhood. (Maybe 50 bags). That
was way more than I needed for the current compost pile. To reduce the
volume, I put the leaves through a shredder which reduced the volume by more
than half. But I kept the leaves in bags. The leaves that were damp turned
into beautiful leaf mold by late Spring. The dry leave were unchanged. So
now I do this and just make sure the leaves are damp. I don't see any
reason to add fertilizer. I've always felt that that is inconsistent with
the philosophy of composting.
--
Compostman
Washington, DC
Zone 7
"mmarteen" wrote in message
...
Thanks for the ideas, it does sound like leaf mold is worth the wait.

[snip]

If you built a wide round wire bin five feet tall & filled it to the top
with leaves, by the time they were leafmold, the pile would have reduced
to less than one foot tall. Pure leafmold can also be had by cramming as
many damp leaves as possible into a black plastic bag with a dash of
nitrogen fertilizer mixed in if you really think it needs speeding up, &
shoving them into some out of the way crawlspace for half a year or so.
Pure leafmold is a more wonderful thing than compost per se. It's very
black & crumbly & makes a splendid attractive topcoating for the whole
garden.

[snip]

If I were to take the black plastic bag approach, what nitrogen fertilizer
would you recommend? Would bloodmeal work?

Thanks again!

mm




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Old 07-02-2003, 04:27 PM
simy1
 
Posts: n/a
Default leaf mold and compost

"mmarteen" wrote in message ...


Leaf mold has a low nutrient content. It depends on what you want to
do. Leaves, in my mind, are good for three things:

1) start seedlings (I also use sifted, months-old manure, as well as
regular potting soil) in leaf mold

2) mulch around veggies (whole leaves) for moisture retention and


I would like it for this.

3) soil conditioning, specially for heavy clay (they will encourage
soil breakdown by worms) (also whole leaves are best)


but probably primarily this since we are building on an infill lot that has
been sodded for 5 years. I am sure the soil will need improvement. As soon
as we lose some of the snow cover, i will be collecting samples to test, but
I am trying to budget my gardening needs and making a landscape plan and I
need to make sure I have adequate space for compost piles and leaf mold
piles, if needed. I am not sure I will be able to generate enough compost to
improve the whole property so leaf mold would be great too, particularly in
the shady front yard. I will find out about community sources of compost
once I get going.


If you want to fertilize, you are better off getting something else
(grass clippings, kitchen scraps, any manure, even wood chips).




There are also other ways to fasten leaves decay. Amongst those,
mixing them with grass clippings or urea. But what is the point of
doing that, if you are going to use them as mulch? Let us know what
you want to do.


As a soil nutrient primarily.


Leaves do break down within the season, and while they will contribute
small amounts of nitrogen absorbed from the atmosphere during decay,
as well as humic acids that help make available whatever nutrients may
be in the soil, in general the mother tree withdraws most nutrients
from leaves in the fall. That is why I use the words "conditioner" and
"mulch" but not "fertilizer". If you find after tests that your soil
is poor, leaves will not help much. Coleman has a acid, clay soil and
leaves help break it and probably help moderate the pH (though I am
sure he limes as well).

So if you want them for mulch, you can store them wherever you have
space, without chopping, turning, or any other labor intensive
treatment. In May, I usually lay them on the bed, and I use an old
steel tent spike to punch a hole through them for the seedling. Nature
will take care of the rest and next year you will have to add new
leaves. If you do this continuously weeds will nearly disappear. Not
only you can save the work of chopping them, I guarantee that as mulch
they are better whole. And they are going to break down regardless
during the season, so why bother?


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