Firstly, I would like to thank Indian Green Service (Mr. Muralidharan and his team) to wake us up to make some Leaf mold compost. I wonder why we did not make the leaf mold till now??? Chalo, it’s never late for composting .
What is a Leaf mold: It is a form of compost produced by the fungal breakdown of dry leaves of shrubs, trees and grasses, which are acidic and too low in nitrogen for bacterial decomposition. Once ready, it’s a nice soil conditioner that is dark brown to black, crumbly textured with a pleasant earthy aroma. I would like to remind you of humus found on the forest floors. This is pretty much organic humus created artificially.
Why Leaf mold: Everywhere in Gurgaon leaf litter is burnt, essentially to tidy the beautiful gardens and avenues (sarcastic). Here is an opportunity to convert someone’s bother into useful material for us at the Aravali Biodiversity Park.
In gardening, leaf mold greatly improves the structure and water-holding capacity of soil. It also creates the perfect conditions for the community of beneficial organisms that dwell in the soil, and it’s a great mulching mix. Leaf mold is far superior as a soil amendment. It doesn’t provide much in the way of nutrition, so you will still need to add compost or other organic fertilizers to increase fertility.
￼Dry leaves are basically all carbon, which takes a lot longer to break down than nitrogen-rich materials such as grass clippings or green leaves. Shredding the leaves finer, adding cow-dung slurry (watery cow-dung ￼soup) and keeping compost pile wet the decaying process can be accelerated.
Science of composting: Compost is organic matter that has been decomposed and recycled as a fertilizer and soil amendment. At the basic level, the process of composting simply requires making a heap of wetted organic matter (leaves, “green” food waste) and waiting for the materials to break down into humus after a long period often months. We have developed good understanding of the science of composting. The decomposition process is aided by shredding the plant matter, adding water and ensuring proper aeration by regularly turning the mixture. Worms and fungi further break up the material. Aerobic bacteria manage the chemical process by converting the inputs into heat, carbon dioxide and ammonium. The ammonium is further converted by bacteria into plant-nourishing nitrites and nitrates through the process of nitrification.
Microorganisms that breakdown the leaves need four things to work effectively:
a) Carbon — for energy; the microbial oxidization of carbon produces the heat. High carbon materials tend to be brown and dry.
b) Nitrogen — to grow and reproduce more organisms to oxidize the carbon. High nitrogen materials tend to be green (or colorful, such as fruits and vegetables) and wet.
c) Oxygen — for oxidizing the carbon, the decomposition process.
d) Water — in the right amounts to maintain activity without causing anaerobic (think of stinking pile buy xanax without of
Fig 1: Tractor trolly carrying leaf from DLF colonies
Leaf litter: primary ingredient of our endeavour was organized from Phase II DLF, about 7 tractor trolleys.
Water: available at the park .
Cow-dung slurry: we have enough cow-dung piled at the park.
Implements: Spades, drums, bamboo, shade, net, jute textile, gloves and gumboots for the maalis.
￼Clearing unwanted material: Plastic wrappers and Thanks to Latika for taking lead and organising the material. I would like to mention that it was ￼all organised within two days.
Fig 2: Leaf litter being crushed and dipped in Cow-dung slurry
Collection of Leaf litter: Yesterday 7 trolleys of leaf litter was collected from DLF phase II (courtesy RWA; Latika’s contact). It was piled opposite the VIP planting area on the way to the amphitheatre.
Clearing unwanted material: Plastic wrappers and other unwanted materials were sorted out from the pile. ￼
Fig 3: Wetting of the leaf litter with cow-dung slurry
Shredding: As mentioned before, the dried leaves are broken down for accelerating decomposing process. This was done by our maalis crushing the leaf litter under their feet. Gumboots were useful in ￼this.
￼Wetting: Once the leaves were broken down, the leaves wer dipped in cow-dung slurry. Cow-dung slurry is essentially cow-dung mixed in water. This is our catalyst for expediting the process of decomposition.
Fig 4: Kuldeep making Wall
Fig 5: One of the mali walking on the pile and spreading the leaf litter evenly
Fig 6: Pile being pressed by Bamboo pole
Base of the Pile: An area of 12ftX6ft was cleared to make base of the leaf mold pile. Wet leaf litter was placed. Four maalis were putting wet leaf litter on the base. One maali was walking on the pile and compressing the base. This process went on till the pile became about a foot high. It was time to give solid wall to the pile. Kuldeep (our supervisor) worked on the pile under the guidance of the IGS members to make a good wall, by extra compressing it.
Filling the Pile: Maalis continued dumping leaf litter along with compressing the wall to make high pile. Once the pile attained 2ft height, the compression methodology changed and bamboo ￼was used to put pressure on the pile.
￼Covering: When the pile reached its full height, it was covered with jute textile. This was done to ￼arrest the moisture escaping from the pile.
Fig 7: Pile being covered by Jute Textile
Fig 8: CheersThis has to be followed by wetting the pile thrice a day and providing shade to the site.
Cheers team leaf mold. Hopefully in two months, that is, 5th July we will have our own leaf mold.
By: Vijay Dhasmana