Huge deciduous trees overhang our orchard herb gardens in Park Frankendael. These trees are shedding their leaves at present and the place looks lovely. Autumn is well and truely here!
The annual leaf fall is not a problem, in fact it is very beneficial to the orchard trees and paths. The fallen leaves will rot down over winter and be carried underground by worms, bugs and fungal mycelia, distributing nutrients around the plant roots. The leaves also create a natural mulch, protecting the plants from severe winter weather. But on an immediate practical level, our paths and plants are currently buried deep and are difficult to find. The leaf rotting process also speeds up the breakdown of our bark paths. So the autumn leaves needed some attention.
Today we built two simple leaf mold bins and filled them with a small fraction of the fallen leaves. We bought a roll of large square mesh from a garden centre. For each bin we cut off a length (about 1m50cm long) to form a loose cilinder.
Wire cutters opened up closed ends down two sides of the mesh so that we could wind the ends and sides together, creating the cylinder.
Then, we cut a shorter length of the mesh and fastened this to create the base of the bin.
To allow nesting and visiting mammals (such as hedgehogs) into the leaf containers, we made three larger holes at the base of the leaf bins.
Next, a layer of twiggy branches were laid inside the base of the leaf bins (nesting mammals often favour this) and finally, we loaded up the bins with fallen leaves.
Here is the finished result:
Thanks Bobby, Ilko, Caro and Nathalie for helping to plan and make the leaf bins. I think they look great and hope that lots of wildlife benefits from them.
In summary – Leaf mold is great for the garden. It is good for soil water retention, contains minerals which the trees mine from deep in the soil, is easy to make but takes longer to rot down than regular compost. Leaf mold is made primarily by soil fungi whereas compost is made primarily by bacteria. The fungi remain in the leaf mold after it is made, so when added to soil, you have the benefits of fungi – instantly. Leaf mold can be mixed with a little sand to make excellent seed compost.