Can composted leaves be used as the only nutrition for the plants? Are there some plants that love leaf compost and some that don't?

I am not worried about pH, since hat can be easily changed, but more about nutrition values. Has anyone done a soil test on composted leaves and can provide real data?

What leaves (from which tree) are the best (if any)?

thanks for answers

  • In other words, @sanjihan, no, there is no decomposed organic matter that will give plants all the chemistry they need. But make no mistake, the condition and tilth of a soil can make or break being able to grow and harvest anything. Decomposed organic matter is usually deficient in Nitrogen, for example because it is Nitrogen decomposers have to have to do their work.
    – stormy
    Apr 30, 2017 at 22:05

2 Answers 2


Leafmould is a great soil conditioner or mulch, but it is not nutritionally rich - it adds humus to the soil, but if you are growing vegetables, you will still likely need to use fertilizers. Humus, though, is important - it adds and encourages a greater diversity of soil organisms, and the more friable and populated the soil, the better your plants will grow.

Oak, beech and hornbeam are quicker to rot down and are probably the most useful, but most (though not all) leaves are suitable to make leafmould, see here for more information https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=478


There is evidence that leaf mould can help newly transplanted material to re-root itself more quickly than just placing in ordinary soil, apparently its to do with bacteria within the compost? Leaf mould can make the soil more acidic, but on the good side it can help with increasing the water holding capacity, reduce soil erosion and help with increasing the temperature of the soil itself in the early spring (dark soils warm up quicker!) plus leaf mould can help with aeration and root penetration, and can protect from frost if piled over tender herbaceous plants. I find it useful for revamping compacted soils as it doesn't allow compaction with dry areas too much. I would try woodland edge plants, Hellebores, Bergenias, Epimedium, ferns, Gunnera, Erythronium, bluebells, Hosta, Polygonatum and the list goes on...well they do alright in my garden- swear by the stuff I do. I collect any type of leaf going although I find the leaves of deciduous trees better and a little bit mixed with a few grass clipping helps too- try apple and pear, maple, lime, hazel, hornbeam, cherry and any other hedge row tree too, however oak and beech take a bit longer (results in a much darker compost)and anything like London plane is a not advised- best to think of anything that tough like evergreens, best put through a chipper! or mowed over (poor mans chipper) and then put on the heap. Remember to keep the heap fairly wet as pure leaf heaps have a tendency to dry out in the middle and go like paper in the center- however if you use the bag method, remember to pierce the bottoms to let the gravy/juice out or you will get very messy indeed.

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