How to make loam and leafmould
by Frann Leach
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While loam may be available, to be certain that it is both organic and of good quality may be a problem. As for leafmould, you will be lucky to find a source of this, organic or otherwise. But both are very easy to make for yourself, needing only a quiet corner, and no attention beyond the initial stacking until they are ready for use in a year or two.

To make loam

Cut turf (minimum two years old), free from weeds and couch grass, with about 5cm (2") of soil attached. Stack grass-side down for at least a year.

To make leafmould

In most towns and suburbs it is possible to obtain dead leaves, either unofficially by bribing the road men, or officially through the council. A traditional leafmould heap can go in dry shade under trees where nothing much will grow. Level the ground and drive in stout posts 3 feet high at the corners, adding extra posts every yard if you are going to have leaves enough to make a large heap. Staple 3 foot high wire netting to the outsides of the posts and pile in the leaves as they are gathered, removing dead branches and paper litter if they are swept from the streets. Hose the heap once or twice the first summer, especially if this is a dry one.

Never include weeds or garden rubbish in the leaf pile (or dead leaves in a compost heap), for the decay of leaves is carried out by fungi that need no oxygen because there is very little heating, and the whole process is much slower. After a year the heap will have sunk and firmed, so the posts can be dug up with the netting and moved to make the enclosure for next autumn's leaves. Year old leafmould is good enough to dig into a sandy soil or to lighten clays, but for potting soil it should wait for another year.

Leafmould may be hastened by pouring Household Liquid Activator on the leaves. This will break down refractory leaves (e.g. plane, chestnut) in one year rather than three, and produces improved decay for leaves of any kind. Another system begins with a traditional leaf stack, but in the spring, as soon as ample lawn mowings are available, turn the leaf stack, mixing in about 25 percent of its bulk of the mowings. This will produce good "leafmould" in as little as six months, which will make an excellent surface coat to go between bush fruit, or as a mulch for no-digging systems.
©2004 Frann Leach. All rights reserved.

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