Tag Archives: leaf mold

#NABLOPOMO: leaf mold, natures soil improver

With the leaves falling and autumn kicking in. It is very easy to get annoyed with the litter of golden leaves that form in small mounds on the pathways and roads.

Over the last few years I have been using nature’s refuse to fill the dozen or so raised beds on the plot. Whilst is not particularly full of nutrients, it does have it’s uses. I use it as filler so I don’t have to spend a small fortune on multi-purpose compost as the levels of raised beds decrease over time. Leaves are dumped to decay over the autumn and winter months, and then in the spring, I cover with multipurpose compost.

Leaves are gathered up Dad and put into gardening bags. Dragged down to the plot, these the fill the beds along with any other organic material such as grass cuttings. I have in past, put thirteen or so bags into a one tonne builders bag. This over the course of eight months has then decayed down into a soil like consistency. As mentioned above, there is very little nutritional value. Leaf mold is therefore best used to improve the structure of soil and bulk it out.

One year I used one builders bag in a raised bed that was planted up with marrows and courgettes. I can safely say, that the plants grew exponentially, because of the decaying material.

 

 

Diggin’ the dirt-making a start

With the dry weather today, and the sunshine, it made sense to go down to the plot and make a start on the preparation jobs. Since there is a stack of potatoes waiting to be sank, the plot is also in dire need of being dug over.  This was the job that Mama H volunteered herself for, besides, she actually likes digging, I do not. So Mama H, took up the magic spade and fork to dig over the heavy clay. It has dried out considerably, and Mama H was able to slice through it quite quickly with the spade and fork. Occasionally, she would smash the clods with the spade, and hurl lumps of weed passed my head as i walked past with the wheel barrow.

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My job, was to start filling up the raised beds with leaf mold and organic waste. In time, the plan is to top off the raised beds with MPC. Many of the beds have sunk after last year so need replenishing.

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There are five builders bags and two black bags full of leaves. These two beds were filled with leaves that haven’t fully decayed. This shouldn’t really be a problem. I had a similar situation last year, and in covering them with MPC, producing a bumper crop of courgettes and marrows as they decayed. That specific courgette bed, does need replenishing. However, it contains strawberry plants that had been nestled in between the squashes that will be rehomed and repositioned so that it can be.

Have managed to fill four beds today, there are a few more to fill. The beds that still have soil in them, will benefit from weeding over. There are patches of grass that have come through.

 

Squelching through the sludge

Over the last two weeks, it has been rather difficult to walk down to the plot. Mainly as the weather has been atrocious, but also as I start a new post. The sum of any visits has been to wander down there in the red wellingtons and see if the puddles have got any deeper. One takes one’s life into one’s hands just getting down the path. Sadly, there is no money in the site budget to fix it. I grumbled about that a fair bit at the plot meeting. It is turning into a health and safety hazard. The plot itself, is a maze of puddles; as you will see from the videos. Which is why there are so many raised beds. The benefit of the rain, is that I can see where I need to build things up. The plot is actually lower than the path that runs alongside.

The plot cuts something of a post-apocalyptic scene in the desolate dire winter. A stark contrast to the flourishing flowering scene in the summer gone. I must remember to sow the sunflowers for the Sunflower project 2014. I encourage to think about that, a good cause and it makes the plot look oh so pretty!

I know that the for the last few weeks, all the updates have been somewhat miserable. Sadly, I cannot control the weather! The growing season is still in it’s infancy.

Took a walk down to plot 2 today. Wanted to update you all on just what was happening. Very cold, but very bright. Just not very playable though.

Bit of sunshine, lots of puddles. So much to clear up.

I have battled with the topography of the plot. It is lower in the middle, than everywhere else. Water forms puddles, that then just stand and stay there stagnating. The key has been raised beds. I can safely say, that they have been very useful. Allowed me to get growing, and be successful with it. last year, three beds were full of potatoes. The spuds worked reasonably well, I got potatoes, that was good enough for me. However, there was a lot slug damage to them. The beds were filled with assorted organic matter. Grass cuttings, horse poop, and leaf mold. This year, the beds have sunk; as they do. So will need to have more material added to them.

There are onions, shallots and garlic in there somewhere. These were all planted through cardboard. I would have expected to see a bit more top growth by now, but these were planted a whole month later than expected. In addition, there has been a lot of rain. I can only hypothesis that the roots are being set down, at least by those sets that have survived the wet and inclement weather.

Leaf mold! This was all collected last year, and is cooking in the cold. There are two aims for this stuff. To first use in the raised beds, and there are quite a few raised beds. Then to put what remains where I can, to improve the soil and help raise the open ground areas. Last year, one entire builders bag was used to fill a 1mx2m bed. This bed was then used to cultivate two courgettes and marrows. I can safely say, that the decaying matter did them wonders. Prolific anyway, the squashes somewhat thrived with all that leaf mold.

Making one’s beds

The plot is wonky, in the lowest bit of the plot, and therein liable to become a pond. The clay, could probably be well worked by a potter; for all it’s nutritional value, it has given me a headache. The remedy, or means to make it practical. Raised beds.

This summer, the boon of online sales of the gardening sales, led to raised beds being purchased. These were addition to the one, bought last autumn. The reason why, was that Mama H nearly clambered into the claggy, heavy clay, and then very nearly couldn’t come back out again. She had sunk nearly a couple of feet. This would not do! Especially, as part of the remit of having a half plot is that there would be indian food grown there. This in the most generic sense, involves Spinach of the Indian variety. I don’t what Indian Spinach is specifically. Only that red cardinal leaves really don’t cut it.

So to keep Mama H safe, and to have a productive plot, the raised beds are warranted. There are 12 beds in total. The vary between 1m x 1m  and 2m x 1m. All were delivered, swiftly by an online shop. All were straight forwards in their construction. The only issues, blisters, and pops making some of them.

I was more than happy to construct them! Alas, pops didn’t want them cluttering his garage, and before I got around to them. He took a screwdriver to the last one. I had managed to construct three, and fully anticipated the fourth one. The four smaller ones, I did construct. However, Pops being Pops, had to reinforce them before they were taken the 80 yards down to the plot. There was blisters, I might add. Though that was not me being a bit feeble. I attribute that to the screwdriver. An old one that belongs to Pops, that has been around since the arc. No good using the newer one, it didn’t feel right. Once constructed, these were placed on the plot on top of newspaper.

As it stands, and the water does-badoom, crash-the beds are filled with leaf mold. This is most likely going to sink over time as it decays. The plan,or half plan rather, is to fill these with compost. There is the poop that Pops shovelled to also put into them.

Yours in Anticipation

Horticultural Hobbit

Life gives to leaves, make leaf mold

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This time last year, there was only the one builders bag compared to this years for. At that stage, I had started to collect leaves rather late on. Must have been about late November, and the last remaining few were hanging about. This one bag, was filled with approximately eight to ten bags and these were then left to cook. I think may be once or twice, I may have added some compost activator. I don’t think this did any harm.

Taking a matter of months, the leaves decayed and broke down. Forming the dark material that you see wih the magic fork stuck into it. That was summer this year, once I had built the beds; I wanted to fill them. I don’t think, that at that stage it was entirely fully cooked. I have heard variable estimates as to when it is ready to go.So half cooked, it is in the raised beds. Covered with newspaper for some protection against flying weed seeds. The one builders bag, filled four 1m x 1m beds. So all in all, that is quite a lot really. Not bad at all for a first time experiment. This year, there are four beds. There are also more beds. With 12 beds in all, they will all need filling.

This year, as soon as the descent of the leaves started; I was collecting. Well, it was mostly Dad and and Grandad Mike, but that’s technicality. Between us, 13 bags a week were collected and taken to the plot. These were then emptied into builders bags and also the raised beds.

I have yet to understand the fill science of what actually goes on. I think the breakdown is bacterial, and the decay is facilitated by moisture. I really couldn’t tell you the exact details!

So whilst the raised beds are part filled, next year, the aim is to fill these with compost. The builders bags may well be used to top these up. However, the plot being heavy clay; the area not covered with raised beds may benefit from it somewhat. That is, however, if it doesn’t say water logged.

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Yours in anticipation,

Horticultural Hobbit