by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
Many people, including avid gardeners, rake their leaves in the yard and garden and then bag them and leave them out by the kerb for collection by the municipality. This is wasting a great gardening resource.
Leaf mold, that is to say leaves that have been broken down by the action of fungi (unlike by bacteria and worms in composting) is a great additive to soil after about two years, turned occasionally, and as top dressing for any and all plants earlier than that, after about a year.
A simple cage made of wire fence or chicken wire can be tucked away in a corner to create leaf mold. Leaf mold breaks down over winter to become a wonderful top dressing for any and all plants. Splash a little water on the leaves if they are dry, and press them down. You will be amazed at how many leaves you can fit in a small space. Never put leaves in a bag on the kerb, it is a waste of a great resource.
Once left for two years or so it is the best soil (additive) for, as said, any and all plants but very especially for vegetable, that is to say food, growing.
However, you can, if you have lots of it, also use leaf mold after already a year, as the base for raised bed gardening, topping it up with compost and leaf mold over two years old, such as in Hügelkultur raised beds, where wooden materials are used as the lower base, followed by wood chip, leaves and young leaf mold and then soil. This is probably one of the best ways of gardening, aside from the fact that it is a no-dig method also.
Hügelkultur gardening in raised beds is akin to what some call Lasagne Gardening where paper, grass, leaves and such are layered, much like a lasagne – hence the name – to form the beds.
In both cases the material rotting away underneath the soil by means of various micro-organisms and their actions feed the soil which, in turn, feeds the plants.
So, don't waste your yard waste and that also includes grass clippings.