18. Dry leaves and bokashi

A somewhat slower but really smart way of making soil is to combine bokashi and autumn/fall leaves.

We’ve talked about how autumn leaves can be added to a soil factory or bokashi tower to help along the soil production process.

There’s another method, this time using more or less only autumn leaves.

Dry leaves are not trash!

You know that horrible thing that happens in most suburbs in the autumn, when people rake up every last leaf from their garden and put them in plastic sacks? OK, maybe not everywhere in the world, but in nearly all suburbs in Europe, Australia/NZ and the United States and Canada. That’s bad enough.

Time to get a grip on this and make soil in those sacks. And actually it’s quite easy.

Line up your sacks somewhere convenient, behind the garage or in a shed. If your neighbor has filled a few, ask if you can have those too. Black sacks are good, in a cold climate, as the heat of the sun in the spring will help the process along. In a hot climate, you’d probably want to put them in the shade. On the other hand, in a hot climate you probably don’t have autumn leaves, so it’s possibly irrelevant.

During the winter, or anytime really, that you have a bokashi bucket that needs emptying, you can add it to one of these sacks. Toss the contents around as much

as possible to mix the bokashi and leaves (the two different types of microbes need to meet), compress it and close the sack. A simple method is just to flap over the top of the sack and then turn it upside down. If you can, add some soil to the mix; it will always go better this way. If you have a decent layer of soil or leaves on top of the mix you don’t need to close the sack at all, as long as it’s protected from the weather.

What you’ll find in due course is that you get soil in your sacks. Or, if you don’t want to wait that long, you’ll get a really good leaf mulch. The bokashi will largely become absorbed by the leaf material, so even if it hasn’t made it all the way to soil, you will no longer have any food scraps in the mix and the leaf material will be full of nutrients and microbes.

How you use it is up to you.

Some people lay out this added-value leaf mix as a mulch around perennial beds or under bushes. Others dig it down to improve soil where they are planning to plant. Many use it in the greenhouse, or as the base material for a large planting container. Some people just leave the sack for a good long time to become soil that is then on hand for whenever they need it.

The options are all yours

Once consideration is, as always, to think about any visitors you might get to your sacks. If they are outdoors, you might have birds picking through them, or dogs, or even badgers, rodents, or foxes. This is not normally a problem but you never know: if you already have problems with animals you might need to plan ahead. Better safe than sorry.

Double sacks can help, or storing them in another place, or possibly switching to a harder type of container. Whatever makes sense.

Another issue is, as always, humidity in the leaf sacks. Try to collect the leaves when they’re not too wet or frozen, as they can easily become a wet, sludgy mess otherwise, especially when the bokashi is added.

If your mix is wet, an easy solution is to clip a small hole or slit in the bottom of the bag for liquid to drain out. As this liquid is high-value bokashi liquid, it makes sense to put the sacks on a good spot where the liquid can drain out into soil that needs improving. A bed in a greenhouse is ideal for this.

Another option is to add absorbent material to the sack. Charcoal is always good, as the benefits just keep on going. Shredded newsprint, egg cartons etc, or sawdust, or dried out soil from some potplants.

Whatever you have handy, basically.

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