When Leaves Start to Fall

As we’ve experienced the first hard freezes (in Tulsa, 10/30-31/19), the leaves on trees are starting to turn, and will be falling.  That’s when lots of people rake them up, put them in bags, and leave on the curb … for folks like us to pick up.

Last year, I brought bags of leaves home and piled them in the backyard. 

This year, though, I’m building a leaf corral (or two or three) of chicken wire (poultry netting) and turning the leaves into the corrals.  You can see my new corral with about 7 bags of leaves from last year.  The 3 ½ foot diameter corral can hold at least 10-12 bags of leaves.

The corral is made of about 12 ft. of chicken wire held together with zip ties and strengthened into upright position by plastic coated plant stakes.

7 bags of leaves emptied into corral

Why leaf corrals and keeping leaves?  LEAF MOLD!!!

Leaf mold is different from compost. Compost heats up and is a bacterial action. It’s recommended to turn compost often to help aerate and keep the action going. Leaf mold is cold, and fungal action in nature. It takes longer, up to a year or more, but is an incredible soil amendment.

Tree roots go deep, and pull up minerals from deeper soil horizons. These minerals get transferred to the leaves and when the leaves decompose, and are put into the soil, then those minerals become available to plants in the upper horizons.

What minerals you say? Try calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium. And beyond that, the leaf mold increases the water holding capacity of soil as well as making it fluffy. Tests – both official and by individuals – indicate the leaf mold increased soil water holding capacity by almost 50 percent! That means your plants growing in the soil will be more drought-tolerant.

So how do you accomplish this? It’s simple. Gather the bags of leaves on the street. Make sure they are clear bags, and contain only leaves – not other junk (I once found a few shards of glass in a black plastic bags of leaves). Construct a leaf corral of about 12′ of chicken wire – I use 3′ high chicken wire, so that I can lift the bags of leaves over it to dump them. I connected both ends of the chicken wire with zip ties, and anchored this corral with some plant stakes woven through the holes in the wire.

Now dump leaves into the corral until it’s full. Make another corral if you have more leaves. Then leave them alone for a year. Check to see if you have deep dark rich humus. Then use it as mulch for your plantings.