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How To Make Great Leafmould

And the leaves that are green... turn to brown!

 

To make leafmould


Perhaps the best time to collect leaves is just after it has rained when they will be well soaked. Alternatively hose them down with water. Now you simply fill the Leafmould Maker with the leaves, compressing each layer as you go. Even if you fill your Leafmould Maker, the volume of leaves will gradually but significantly reduce over the coming months. If you fill your cage then place the 'lid' on top of the leaves to prevent any wind scattering. At its simplest that's it, all you have to do now is wait. We have two great value Leafmould Composters available on our Leafmould Composting page.

After about one year the leaves should be sufficiently rotted to use as a mulch or to dig into your soil. To achieve a finer product e.g .to use as a lawn dressing or in potting composts simply leave it for a further year and you'll have an excellent peat alternative with numerous gardening applications.

It is best not to mix up leaves from different years as this will result in a less even and consistent end product. After the first year the leafmould pile should be quite stable and sufficiently rotted that wind scattering won't be a problem. Better still, why not have two Leadmould Makers for a neat and tidy continuous process?

To Speed up the Process
There are several simple ways to quicken the process and achieve leafmould in about half the normal time.

Shredding
Shred the leaves before filling the Leafmould Maker. This can be done using a garden shredder, or by spreading your leaves on the lawn and running a lawn mower over them. A cylinder mower with a grass box is ideal for this, as it will shred and collect in one operation. Any bits of grass (seed free) collected in this process will also help to speed up leafmould making.

As shredding is best done with dry leaves to avoid clogging up your shredder or mower - remember to wet them before filling your leafmould cage.

Natural Activators
Unusual as it may sound; human urine is an excellent natural activator rich in nitrogen. If you care to, simply pour a few pints (diluted 50/50 with water) over the leaves. Any more direct application methods are entirely up to you and at your risk!

Turn and add grass clippings
In the first spring after filling, empty out the leaves, mix with fresh grass clippings (in the proportion of 4 parts leaves to 1 part grass - ie 25% grass) and refill the leafmould maker compressing the leaf/grass mixture as you go.

Any or all of these simple actions will significantly speed up the whole process.

Why not just compost leaves with other garden waste?
Leaves have a fibrous structure and are slow to rot down. Mixing with conventional compost material will slow down your compost heap and reduce its heat generation. Leafmould making is a slow cool process performed by fungi (hence mould) naturally present in leaves. On the other hand composting is a faster, heat generating process utilising naturally occurring microbes and bacteria.

What leaves can I use?
Virtually any tree or shrub leaves will make a good leafmould. Oak and beech leaves are perhaps a bit quicker to rot and plane, chestnut and sycamore leaves a bit slower.

The typical ph (acidity/alkalinity) of leafmould is between 6.5 and 7.5 ie about neutral. A preponderance of conifer an evergreen leaves or needles will tend to produce a more acidic leafmould. Such acidic leafmould would be excellent for acid loving plants such as azaleas and rhododendrons.

What if I don't have enough leaves in my garden?
Friends and neighbours will probably be only too keen to let you have their autumn leaf fall. Additionally local authorities collect thousands of tons of leaves each year. So a word with the council, or your local parks department could easily generate a serious quantity of leaves.

To make the best use of your leafmould
Leafmould is one of the longest lasting of all organic soil conditioners. By significantly improving both the organic content and physical structure of soil it results in a considerable increase in fertility wherever applied - all round the garden.

Leafmould can be used to great benefit on vegetable and ornamental beds, for annuals and perennials, and around fruit trees, bushes and shrubs.
Used on any soil type it can be dug in or spread as a surface mulch.

Mulching
Use just like peat or bark as a quality surface mulch. For water retention purposes spread a layer of 1-1.5 inches. For water retention and weed suppression a layer of 2-2.5 inches.

Top dressing
Fine well rotted leafmould makes an excellent top dressing for a lawn or seed bed. It is useful, although not essential, to sieve the leafmould prior to using it as a top dressing. For top dressing a lawn the best time is in the main growing season. Apply a thin layer of fine leafmould after spiking the lawn, then simply brush it in. If required this can be repeated several times during the grass growing season.

Seed compost
Mix 1 part of well rotted and sieved leafmould with 1 part of sharp sand. This will produce an excellent free rotting medium with sufficient nutrients for seedlings up to pricking off stage.

Making a potting compost
Being similar to sedge peat, leafmould is a useful constituent of a potting compost. Two typical formulas are outlined below:-

A.
1 part well rotted leafmould
1 part garden loam
2 parts compost

B.
1 part well rotted leafmould
1 part worm worked compost
1 part garden loam
1 part perlite

Click here to view our selection of great value Leafmould Composting products.

How the Aerobin Hot Composter Works

The Aerobin utilises hot composting techniques to speed up the breakdown of food and garden waste

Who is the Aerobin for?   

For those passionate about reducing the food and garden waste their household or business sends to landfill, the Aerobin utilises a method of heating up organic waste to break it down in as little as 12 weeks. Reaching between 40°C-60°C - with highs of 70°C in the right conditions - hot composting not only speeds up the process of breaking down waste but also provides a nutrient-rich fertiliser for your plants.    

The benefits of hot composting compared to cold composting    

Operating at less than 20°C, traditional methods of composting are unlikely to reach a sufficient temperature to break down difficult waste such as bones, fly eggs, weed seeds and larvae. The Arrhenius equation, otherwise known as the Q10 formula, is a temperature dependency model for reaction speeds. This equation relates to the temperature variation of thermally induced reactions, meaning the reaction speed of breaking down waste significantly rises with every 10°C increase in temperature. 

In other words, an outdoor cold compost heap can typically take 12-24 months in the UK, which has an average temperature of 10°C. However, when the Aerobin operates at its most efficient this process can take as little as 12 weeks!

 

science of hot composting

 

How it works

The aerobic composting (hot composting) process is based on providing the decomposition cycle with plenty of oxygen to foster the required bacterial activity needed for breaking down waste into compost.  

In order to stimulate the required bacterial activity for aerobic composting to work, plenty of oxygen is needed to encourage the decomposition cycle.

 

How hot composting works

 

The rate of bacterial release from heat depends on the specific digestibility of the waste.  This is influenced by the type of waste added as well as the amount of waste added at one time. For example, digestion and heat release can be rapid from plant material or steadier for lignin. 

The production of methane - 2-4 times more potent than green-house gasses - would occur without oxygen and compost would not be generated efficiently. The most effective way to ensure adequate oxygenation for waste is through the formation of free air spaces. 

 

What is free air space (FAS)?

Free air space (FAS) is a physical parameter that can play a significant role in composting processes to preserve optimal aerobic conditions. One study in particular demonstrated that a mixture design methodology can be a valuable tool to predict the initial FAS of composting mixtures, specifically in making adjustments to improve composting processes. 

In other words, the Aerobin relies on buoyancy air flow aeration, which, in effect, is based on the preservation of about 20-30% 'free air space' (FAS). Turning the compost heap will allow bacterial growth for brief amounts of time because there are no self-supporting particles in the turned waste, so the heap would collapse rapidly and again hinder airflow. 

 

The Aerobin is made from 100% virgin polymer

Conversely, if the heap has self-supporting particles, no turning is needed, the Aerobin utilises a bulking agent (composted wood chip) to retain free air space to accomplish this. Any time waste is added to the Aerobin, this bulking agent should be added to maintain a buoyant air movement through the waste, which in turn helps the bacteria to easily digest the waste without the need to turn the compost. 

Our Aerobins are made from 100% virgin polymer, a robust material selected for its unparalleled insulation properties, which, while the bin is operating at its optimal temperature, retains heat and provides an ideal environment for bacteria to function efficiently. 

Which Aerobin is right for you? 

200 Litre Aerobin 

The 200L Aerobin is ideal for home use as it easily converts your household food and garden waste into compost, and the liquid created from the waste is great for plants. It has a useful pump too. 

400 Litre Aerobin 

For households containing a lot of food or garden waste, small to medium businesses – especially food stores – the 400L Aerobin is best for the job. 

600 Litre Aerobin 

For restaurants and bars, large businesses and food sites with greater volumes of food waste, the 600L Aerobin is the perfect solution. A significant volume of food waste can be composted by this hot composter with an extra-large capacity. 

Shop our range of hot composters today at Original Organics. 

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