How to Make Leaf Mold: Turn Fallen leaves into gardener’s gold
100 Comments


[Music] Hello! At this time of year there are plenty of these. Fallen leaves get just about everywhere – on the lawn, on beds and piled into every nook and cranny in the garden. Rake them up however, and you’ve got a valuable supply of organic matter that can be put to excellent use for your growing. Collected leaves can be used to make leafmold. Leafmold is simply what you get when leaves have decomposed into dark, crumbly compost. This decayed matter is truly gardeners’ gold and can be put to several uses in the garden – dug into the soil to improve its structure, spread on the soil surface as mulch, or used as the basis for your own potting soil mix. Leaves from almost any deciduous tree or shrub (that’s one that sheds its leaves for winter) can be used for making leafmold, though thicker leaves such as horse chestnut can take a little longer to decompose. Tough evergreen leaves are best added to the compost heap where the higher temperatures will help them to break down faster , while pine needles create an acidic leafmold, so collect these separately to mulch around acid-loving plants such as blueberries. Leaves from some trees are best avoided altogether because they release chemicals that can inhibit plant growth. Examples include walnut, eucalyptus, camphor laurel, leylandii, and cherry laurel. Collect leaves from anywhere in the garden – from lawns, beds and paths, plus driveways and guttering. Leaves from heavily-trafficked roads should not be used as they may contain pollutants that could affect plant growth. Use a rake or a leaf blower to gather your leaves into piles, then scoop them up by hand or use improvised grabbers such as these. Alternatively, use a lawn mower fitted with a collection bag to scoop up the leaves. Set the mower to its highest height and the blade will chop up the leaves as it collects them. The chopped leaves will decompose quicker than whole leaves. Leaf mold couldn’t be easier to make. The best way is to create a leaf mold cage by securing chicken wire or mesh to four corner posts hammered firmly into the ground. Use u-shaped nails or fence staples to hold the mesh in position, then fill with your collected leaves. The mesh will stop the leaves from blowing away while allowing plenty of air into the leaf pile. If the leaves are dry, wet them thoroughly after piling them in. Check on the leaves every few months and if there are any dry patches simply turn the leaves to mix them up, then re-wet. An even simpler solution is to stuff leaves into sturdy plastic bags. Push the leaves right down into the bag, then tie or fold it shut at the top. To allow air into the bag, puncture it repeatedly with a garden fork to create lots of holes. This will also prevent the leaves from turning into a smelly mush. Store the bags in a shady out-of-the-way corner where they will remain undisturbed. Leafmold takes longer to make than normal compost because it relies primarily on fungal decomposition, so expect to wait around two years for perfect leaf mold. Don’t forget, any excess leaves can always be added to your main compost heap where they will help to balance fresher green materials. After 2-3 years your leaf mold will have a wonderfully crumbly consistency. It’s great for enhancing your soil, feeding the soil microbes that encourage healthy root growth, improving drainage in heavier soils, and moisture retention in lighter soils. Simply lay a thick layer on top of the soil surface then lightly fork it in, allowing the worms to do the rest of the digging-in for you. Younger leafmold, between 1 and 2 years old, won’t be fully broken down yet but can still be put to use as a surface mulch where it will suppress weeds and work to slowly improve your soil. Lay it 3-5 cm (1-2in) thick around fruit bushes and trees, or any well-established perennial plants. The finest leafmold can form the basis to garden-made potting soil. Sieve it to remove any lumps and debris then mix with weed-free garden soil or sieved compost. Use it for growing in containers or potting on young plants. Nothing should go to waste in the garden and fallen leaves are no exception. We’d love to hear how you use this autumnal glut in your own garden so drop us a comment below and tell us. We’re constantly putting together practical gardening videos like this so if you’re new to our video channel and haven’t yet subscribed – well, we’d love you to join us. I’ll catch you next time. [Music]

100 thoughts on “How to Make Leaf Mold: Turn Fallen leaves into gardener’s gold

  1. Any idea on how to keep tree roots out of your compost pile?  I tried surrounding the pile with a thick plastic sheet.  That works but a compost pile that does not drain is not good.

  2. I rake my leaves, and I have lots, into my concrete driveway and mow them with my mulching mower. This decreases the volume from 3 ft of leaves to about 3 inches! I sweep them into bags and have a fantastic soil amendment and mulch.

  3. 1) Someone down below said pine needles do not create acidity. I have believed that they do and try to keep them out of my compost. This is difficult, they thrive where I am. Could you comment please?
    2) I keep green compost and leaf compost separate because they compost differently, I am told. I buy a huge sack of rice polishings for next to nothing to mix with my leaves (I live in Japan) and these promote growth of fungus which aids decomposition. (It surprises the Rice Man, he thinks I want it to make pickles like traditional Japanese.) My brother, who tends to be always right, puts all his compost together and says it works well. I haven't tried it, keep it separate, so I don't know.

  4. Great video! Any tips on how to make this on a balcony and speed it up in a cold climate (Scandinavia?). I see this has potential for balconies as I guess it will not smell as the normal composting do.

  5. Great video as always and perfect timing as the massive maple trees in and around my garden have just covered everything. Thanks

  6. Evergreen needles don't result in acidic soil. They are acidic themselves however by the time they decompose the acidity is neutralized.

    Great video on leaf mold.

  7. hi there my name is mark, i've got a question for you. can you use used coffee grounds and perilite to speed up decompisition on the leaves? your friend from long lane missouri.

  8. i forgot to ask this, i planted turnips, radishes and clover in the garden for next spring, the greens are up , should i turn them under or wait until spring and even pull them up and add the them to the leaf mold? any suggestions?

  9. 2-3 years to decompose? I think I'd rather add them directly to my garden underneath my wood chip layer. I did that a month and a half ago and I can already see them decomposing.

  10. Suggestion: Make your leaf mold cages with plastic safety/snow fence instead of chicken wire and secure it to the stakes with zip ties instead of U-nails. Plastic fencing is easy to work with and you can cut the zip ties to open up and access the best leaf mold which, inconveniently, will be at the bottom of the pile 😉

  11. We dump tons of leaves in the garden along with used straw from the chicken coops in the fall and let the chickens dig around in it all winter. By spring it's ready to plant in. Chickens are amazing helpers.

  12. I did mulch mine with the lawn mower and made a pile mixed in with year old chicken droppings. also filled my worm bins with them which are now gone, the compost worms went through them fast.. today my worms are eating celery stalks.. I forgot I had in the fridge and it was going bad and some lettuce.. cannot wait for Garden time (garden junkie)

  13. great video 🙂 but add a nitrogen source to those leaves and it will break down in around three months. Even better when these are placed straight to your into your existing soil continually

  14. Invest in a piss bucket. Apply urine to your leaf pile from time to time and the decomposition will be faster. Use partially rotted leaves for mulch.

  15. I sched my leaves first and put them in my flower beds as a mulch in the fall. They usually last until the next fall and i start all over again.

  16. для прискорення дозрівання компосту я добавляю хробаків.

  17. Ive collected a ton of leaves from a country road for a massive leafmould pile – as its a country road im assuming the pollution wouldnt be that bad. I mean you get like one car every 20-30mins…

  18. You mention that composting takes 2 years, but there are many claims that it can be done in 4 to 6 weeks. What is the missing link here ?

  19. Run the lawnmower over them, pee on the leaves [useing watering can] throw in coffin grounds an tea bags mix well , top class leafmound in 26 weeks. tried and tested , over and out.

  20. Your welcome my friend, the more you cut up the leaf the quicker the leafmould, here in ireland we get plenty of rain and lots of leaf so no shortish of leafmould as a result,i mix the leafmould with compost and chicken pellets in burlap sacks and get some early spuds[ great harvest] good luck and nice vid.

  21. I have leaf toro leaf crusher which reduces leaf volume by 75%. I directly mix this crushed leaf some composted manure and mix in garden soil.

  22. i have 6.2 acres of very sandy soil. about 3-5 inches below the sand i find red clay. im in north texas dfw area. my property is heavly wooded filled with oak trees. the whole property is very well shaded and im hopeing to get st Augustine grass to grow in my front and back yard. i have many sandy patches. if i was to till leaves into these patches would it fix my lawn?

  23. Hello,
    Today I gathered alot of leaves crunched them and put them in my garden. I also added fresh wood shreds because I have a patch in the garden that is muddy when wet. Oh I did add in fruit and veggie scraps. Now I am concerned that all the leaves may not decompose by spring which is 6 months from now . Any suggestions

  24. Will it continue to break down over winters where avg lows are in the teens (F) and avg highs are barely above freezing for 2-3 months? Or would I need to put it in a basement or garage where temps stay around 45 F? I'm guessing the latter if it requires fungal activity, but the former would be much more convenient.

  25. Why does everybody say it's gonna take 2 to 3 years?
    I piled up leaves last fall in a corner of a old structure on my property that does not have a roof. Turned it over 1 time in June, never watered unless the rain did it for me and this fall there was no more leafs just perfect compost.
    I imagine if you were to put in some manure it would make things even faster.

  26. Listened to 10 compost videos to find this one, which is the one I wanted. Tons of leaves, some compost space already, and I don't care if it takes a couple of years. The only thing is I'm going to add some already composted dirt to the middle of my pile, which I think will speed it up a bit.

  27. Literarly top quality content cant belive im watching it for free. I learned so much from you although it took mi bit time to discover this channel amongst others

  28. Turn your leaf pile every couple of weeks …. not months. Turning every couple of weeks will result in a faster leaf compost oh and keep moist or wet also cover it up with a tarp or something to help it retain moister and break down. That’s it. This is what works for me.

  29. When pine needless is broken down it is neutral and not acetic. Studies in Canada has shown that. They are acetic when they are fresh but the acid is not going to the soil 😊 Poul Gautchi is having same experience and One yard revolution too.
    Anyways. Only ment as positive critisism 😉

  30. If it takes a couple of years to break down, should/ can you add more leaves after year 1 to your pile or should you start a new pile?

  31. Nice video thanks. Didn't know about walnut leaves being undesirable!
    I've been composting leaves for the last three years and keep the leaves in seperate containers to the regular compost, made of wire & posts.
    First I mow the leaves to reduce them to much smaller pieces.
    After adding to container, moisten them with a mixture of water & urine.
    Turn the heap 6 monthly, to mix.
    When they are dark & broken down, I put them through a rotary sieve, and get a perfect mulch or soil conditioner.
    Use for potting as they are, or mix with regular compost & some sharp grit.
    I find the process takes two years.
    At first I used plastic bin bags, but found the mix went slimy. But when I changed to the wire containers, the leaf mould was perfect.

  32. I find that leaves will break down much quicker if you dampen the leaves inside that plastic bag no holes the top open for outgassing. Months instead of years.

  33. Consider adding some worms to your wet leaf collection bin or black plastic bag. The worms will help to break down the leaves.

  34. I have mainly cut grass and food scraps in my composter through the year so i use the leafs to balance the carbon:nitrogen ratio in my compost heap. Run them over with mower and mix them in well. Usually only takes until the next spring the and pile will be ready to go out onto the garden. Check the pile yesterday which is end of october and its still doing 50 degrees c.

  35. What a great idea to mow to chop and collect the leaves! Thanks for that great idea. Best wishes to you from sunny Cyprus.

  36. theres no need to bag lawn – leave it , keep going til properly ground ; breaks down quickly particually w/ nitrogen from grass clippings
    add lime , which is done now anyway.
    Landscape Gardener 50+ yrs outside ,lol !

  37. The forest floor is an excellent place to collect moldy leaves already composted. Collect in the spring if you have none from the previous fall.

  38. Interesting stuff, but do you have to use that extra loud snare hit at the beginning of the vid?
    It is seriously annoying.

  39. I need a suggestion. I acquired 2 semi loads of leaves about 1000 bags. I just put a 2 acre garden in and would like to know pros and cons of using it as a mulch or composting it first. I live in a arid climate about 10 inches of rainfall per year including the snow winter.

  40. Nice video! My leaves break down to useable soil amendments within one year. I do a “carbon base composting pile” which is made up with all minced leaves as the carbon and I pour liquid slurry as the nitrogen. My pile is a consistent 120F to 160F all winter, spring and cools down in the summer. Here’s a short video of the process!
    https://youtu.be/aVQLcNyywH0

  41. I've covered my 40'x40' garden w/ about 8" of leaves every Fall for years, but it doesn't seem to be improving the soil at all. I just started using wood chips as a mulch last year after planting and hope this will be enough of an increase in organic matter.

  42. I make leaf mold also. I stop making a container to hold the leaves because it is hard to rotate the leaves at the bottom. Instead I just make a big pile and put two fencing or chicken wire pieces on top to prevent wind blowing leaves away or raccoons from digging into looking for by food scraps. The worms help break it down faster and we get worm castings as an additional benefit.

  43. How much money can you make in 2 years?  you can buy FAR MORE QUANTITIES of FAR SUPERIOR garden soil  for like 100$  hell you could mix that with 50% leaves mulched with lawn mower and get the same benefits from leaves in a month INCLUDING the far superior VAST quantity of garden soil…. and you didn't have to have 20 garbage bags in your yard for 2 years.

  44. Yes this video convinced me not to waite 2 or three years for bonafide rotted leaf mold. I'm going to use my starter pulverized leaves as a light weight soil media fir potted fruit trees

  45. 2-3 years?! I've always added to my compost to keep it balanced but I have SO many leaves this year I thought I'd make leaf mold as I'd never throw away something so valuable to the soil. Guess I'll have to wait awhile & look for a place to keep lots of plastic bags!

  46. We mow over our leaves, rake them up again, and mow over them again. We do this about 3 – 4 times until they are well ground up and we use the soil it makes immediately. Works beautifully! We have 7 acres and 6 of them are forest but we have trees all over the 1 acre where we live. We have an abundance of leaves and they are the basis for all of our soil that we grow in. Once you mow over the leaves several times, wet it and you will be surprised at the "soil" you seem to have almost instantly.

  47. I don’t bother to turn my leaves into leaf mold.

    Instead, I simply rake my leaves into long columns on the ground.

    Then I run over my garden leaves with a bagged-lawnmower and grind them up.

    Then I simply empty the ground up leaves into my garden and spread them out with a rake.

    Then I used a shovel and turn the leaves over into the soil to let them rot.

    After just one year of doing this, my garden soil has become dark, loamy, rich and full of worms.

    I also take bucket loads of tea bags, coffee grounds. Egg shells, banana peels, orange peels and apple cores along with mowed grass clippings, and turn those over in my garden soil with a shovel.

    Doing this will make your garden soil black, rich and loamy.

    GREAT VIDEO BY THE WAY!

  48. I'd like to make leaf mold, but I just moved to a place where nothing seems to decay. The leaves of many past years lie in big piles everywhere. Any idea what they're missing? Might they be missing some kind of bacteria that makes them rot? Aside from the front yard (which has grass) and some trees out back nothing even grows. It's like the place is dead. Maybe it's too early in the year to tell, though.

  49. I see your spreading the myth that pine needles make the soil acidic. Completely wrong. Do your research before putting out videos.

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