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Posted: Sun Nov 22, 2015 4:47 pm
I have been collecting the leaves of the oak trees in my garden and allotment and bagging them up to rot down into leafmould.My next door neighbour insists that it is a bit of a waste time as they will take five or more years to break down.I opened a few bags which I collected two years ago and they have hardly begun to break down despite being wet and the presence of worms.I don't believe that I am wasting my time but by the time that the first bags would have rotted down I will have about one hundred bags in store both here at home and at the allotment!
Is there any way in which I can speedup the process or will I just have to let nature take it's course?
Posted: Sun Nov 22, 2015 6:44 pm
I don't have enough trees to collect vast amounts of leaves but after one very slow failed experiment to make leafmould in black plastic bin bags and finding it all slimy I dumped the contents straight onto the soil and dug them it, whereupon they rotted down very quickly.
I don't know whether the chemical reaction with soil speeds up the process but now I always dig my leaves straight into the soil in the autumn. There's not usually much trace of them by the time planting time comes around but we have quite stony soil here so maybe when the sun shines, even in winter, the stones warm a little and help to speed up the rotting process. I imagine in solid clay soil the process would take longer.
Could you try digging some in on an experimental bare batch and compare the rotting down times with the material in the bags?
Different type of leaves probably take different lengths of time to rot, depending on how tough they are, and this will obviously be another factor.
Posted: Sun Nov 22, 2015 7:13 pm
Snooky, I collect a lot of leaves every year and find that they break down in about 2 to 3 years, as long as they are kept damp and a bit of air can get in. I start them off in plastic bin liners with holes pricked by a garden fork. When they have condensed some way, I transfer them to a large open bag made of woven polypropylene (?) so that the rain can wet them from all sides.
I have in the past mixed some Garotta with the leaves but then read that it makes no difference because the breakdown of leaves is quite different to the rotting of garden compost.
I believe, oak leaves take longer to break down than, say, beech.
So, be patient, Snooky, and you will be rewarded!
Posted: Sun Nov 22, 2015 8:28 pm
I collect up all the leaves from my fruit trees and add them to the compost bin in small quantities with all the other green waste. No problems with them rotting down that way.
Maybe standard trees are different and take longer.
Posted: Sun Nov 22, 2015 10:43 pm
I make a lot of leafmould but am fortunate to have the space to do it. I use builders bulk bags that held about a tonne of sand or whatever. I've knocked in an arrangement of posts to hang them from, they are still in contact with the ground. I fill them up and press them down as I go then use a piece of plastic mesh as a lid, the sort with 2-3" holes that you use for climbers, weighted down with a stone (stops the wind sucking the leaves back out). The pile settles quite quickly and I can keep adding more during the 3 or 4 weeks of collecting. After 12 months they have broken down enough that four or five bags can be combined into one to free them up for the next lot. I use most of it in the Spring for mixing compost or mulching the herbaceous garden. It can be used after 18 months, especially for mulching, but it is better after 30 months for making compost which I do with a Rotosieve. I've got four freshly filled bags at the moment and haven't decided whether to try and squeeze a bit more into them or start a fifth bag, there seem to be a lot of leaves this year, as my stock is depleted as I didn't make enough last year.
Posted: Wed Dec 30, 2015 1:31 am
Leaves require fungal infection to initiate the rotting process and this is achieved by making holes in the bottom of your container/plastic bag and then direct contact with soil and this also allows the worms into the bags. Oak leaves here take approximately one year to be available for use. This year's leaves will be ready to use in spring 2017. Make the holes simply with a garden fork.
I use the wire cage method made from aviary mesh with a mesh lid so that the weather get at the contents all the time.
Another method is to spread the the leaves on the plot and cover with mesh or aviary wire and allow the worms to simply take them into the soil but this is no good for potting mixtures but ideal for the next years carrot plot.