Leaf Mould

If you have lots of leaves that have fallen in the Autumn, making leaf mould is a good way to recycle and make use of a natural material. Leaf mould is created once the leaves have had time to break down and it can be used as a soil conditioner, mulch or as part of a fine potting compost once sieved. The leaves are mainly rotted by fungi (unlike compost which degrades through the action of micro-organisms). It is a cool process so the pile does not get warm like compost can.

Any leaves that have fallen from deciduous trees are fine to use but you may want to shred or chop with the lawn mower some of the thicker leaves to help them break down quicker.

To store the leaves you could just pile them in a corner but this can look untidy and they are likely to blow around. You could build a simple cage using stakes and some wire mesh. Alternatively, just put the leaves in black plastic bags, pierce the sides with a garden fork to ensure a bit of air circulation and leave them in a corner of the garden. You will need to add water if the leaves are dry when you collect them and if the pile or bags look dry over time.

It can take up to two years to rot down completely when it resembles crumbs and there is no sign of the original leaves.

Take care when collecting leaves, particularly if there is a drift of leaves under a shrub or against a hedge or wall as creatures such as hedgehogs might be hibernating under it.

At 1 to 2 years when the leaves have started to break down and it is roughly crumbly you can use it as a mulch dressing for plants that like acidic soil.

At 2 years or more it should be fine and crumbly and could be used as part of a seed sowing mix or potting compost.

To make a seed compost use 50% good garden soil, 25% coarse sand and 25% leaf mould or home-made compost

For potting up plants mix equal parts of  loamy garden soil  and leafmould or home-made compost. If you have clay soil, you can add some sharp sand as well.

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