A while ago, while I was reading about compost (a recurring activity), I ran across a reference to leaf mold. The idea of simply piling up leaves, waiting a few years, and coming out with a valuable garden addition was extremely appealing to me. However, there was a small hitch for us: we had no leaf-producing trees on or over-reaching our property. (Ok, now we have some fruit trees, but they’re still really small.) A second hitch was that we had no really good place to pile up leaves and leave them for years.
When Dave and our nephews built the compost bins, though, I saw an opportunity. At some point all three bins will ideally be filled with compost, but this year one of them was free and likely to stay that way for a while. It was a perfect opportunity to pile in some leaves for our first leaf mold experiment.
Then there was the main problem: where to get the leaves. When we passed by leaves piled over sidewalks and lawns, I would toy with the idea of scrounging them. Would it be all right to sneak out with a wheelbarrow and load it up with leaves from the sidewalk? Should I do it in the middle of the night, wearing dark clothing?
But luck was with us. One day our neighbor’s magnolia tree dropped its leaves. Like, all of them. Best of all, we were in a string of dry, sunny days, so instead of congealing into a sodden mass, the leaves stayed light and crunchy. We headed over first just to play in them. (Fortunately these neighbors are the same ones that let us play in their sprinklers during the summer.)
A quick check with our neighbors told us that they were fine with us taking the leaves. So the next day we were back, in slightly less sunshine, to collect them. Everyone helped with this process. Nathan, who’d been fascinated with our new leaf rake since we got it, refused to relinquish it except for very brief turns granted to Linda and me. This could have been a problem except that he was actually very effective at raking the leaves into piles. Ryan, who was having a bit of grumpy spell, mostly sat in the wheelbarrow. This is not to say he wasn’t useful: when we got it full we lifted him up and used him to weight down the leaves. Linda and I did the actual lifting and wheeling of the leaves. We filled up our compost bin, with leaves to spare, in about half an hour — quickly enough that Nathan wasn’t quite ready to be done with the rake, and went back for a little extra lawn maintenance.
And now we wait. In two to three years, I can find out exactly what leaf mold is like, and whether it’s worth scavenging other people’s leaves every fall.