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leaf mould is a great way to recycle

Making 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 a fine potting compost once sieved.

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.

Conifer hedge clippings should be added to the compost heap rather than used for making leafmould and pine needles should have their own pile as they will make an ericaceous leafmould (acidic).

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.

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 crumbly you can use it as a mulch or dig it in as a soil conditioner.

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

To make a seed compost use it on its own or for a potting compost mix it with equal parts of sharp sand, good quality soil (loam) and garden compost.


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