What is Leaf Mould?
Leaf mould is an organic fertilizer and soil conditioner. It is a well-decayed mixture of leaves, grass softwood, lawn mowing and any other plant material. Unlike regular compost which is a product of bacterial decomposition, Leaf mould is produced primarily by the fungal breakdown of leaves. It contains humus which promotes the plant growth, improves soil texture and increases its moisture retention capacity. It helps in the assimilation of other plant nutrients.
It's hard to get leaf mould commercially in India. It can either be collected from the forests or made it in your garden. A lot of leaf litter is available in the backyard so that this fertilizer can be prepared in large quantities.
Steps to prepare leaf mould in your backyard:
- Make pits of 2 x 1 x 1 m (LBH) size in a shady corner of your garden.
- Expose to the sun for 15 days.
- Apply 10% carbaryl at the base to avoid termites.
- The bottom of the pit should be layered with coconut fibre.
- Put a 20 cm layer of dry leaves and twigs followed by 3-5 cm of soil.
- Repeat these alternating layers of dry leaves & soil till the pit is full.
- Put the final 10 cm layer of soil.
- Keep away from direct rains. Cover the pit with dry coconut leaves.
- Water it every month.
- Odourless, dark colored Leaf mould will be ready to use in 6 to 8 months.
Use of leaf mould in gardening:
- Leaf mould is an essential part of pot mixture, mainly for indoor plants.
- In combination with sand, leaf mould is an excellent medium for planting stem cutting for root induction.
- A mixture made up of one part in each of loam and sand, and two parts of leaf mould are ideal for seed sowing.
- Leaf mould along with coco peat is used to grow orchids.
- Leaf mould is mixed with loam soil to grow ferns in pots.
- It is an ideal organic fertilizer for Bonsai trees.
- Along with peat moss, compost, sand and soil, leaf mould is added to the potting mixture for cacti and succulents.
- In vegetable gardening, leaf mould is provided in bulk quantity for a natural dose of nitrogen.
- Leaf mould may not be high in nutrient content, but it is excellent soil conditioner because of its ability to retain moisture and uniform texture for a growing medium.
Leaf mould as mulch:
Leaf mould can be used as organic mulch. A layer of leaf mould is spread over the top soil of farmland or an orchard or a kitchen garden. This particular mulch protects the layer of soil from erosion, enriches it with humus, and encourages more soil formation. Because of leaf mould, beneficial microorganism in soil increases along with friendly creatures like earthworms.
Read to know more about the importance of mulching.