Autumn is the perfect time to make something for your garden. Leaf Mould basically is making gardening Mulch for free. All you need is Autumn Leaves and a rake and some bin liners.
What is Leaf mould?
Leafmould is formed from decaying leaves and produces an invaluable soil conditioner. The best quality leafmould is produced from the leaves of oak, beech or hornbeam. For those of you unfamiliar with leafmould it is magnificent stuff. Earthy, dark brown and smelling like a woodland floor in spring, it’s what you get when leaves rot down over time. Leafmould can be used as a mulch, soil conditioner, potting mix or seed compost. It’s a wonderful soil booster, low enough in nutrients so as not to harm tender seedlings but with just the right qualities to dramatically improve soil structure and boost its water retention.
Leafmould Takes Time
Unlike a compost heap which generates heat and relies on bacteria to break down its contents, leafmould piles are a far more sedate affair. Fallen leaves are generally broken down by fungi, which slowly wend their way through a leaf’s structure, softening then digesting it for dinner. All this takes place in cool conditions so that while compost takes a few months to reach maturity, leafmould usually takes a year – even two – before it’s ready to be put to good use about the garden.
Collecting Leaves for Leaf Mould
As well as collecting the leaves from your garden you could try sourcing leaves from public places. Avoid leaves from busy roadsides which are likely to be full of litter and other things, some of them nasty and slow to dissipate – you don’t want these ending up on your vegetable beds! Most leaves you will use are deciduous but you can use others and if you can find oak or beech you are in luck.
Thick leaves like sycamore, walnut, horse chestnut and sweet chestnut need to be shredded before adding to the leafmould pile, as they are much slower to break down
Pine tree needles can be collected to make an acidic leafmould suitable for ericaceous plants such as the blueberry.
Saving leaves in bags
- Take a black bin liner and punch a few holes in the side and bottom.
- Rake up leaves weekly and stash in the bag.
- When almost full, sprinkle with water, shake and tie.
- Store in a shady spot and the following autumn the leaves will have rotted down into a rich, crumbly mixture that can be used as a mulch around the base of plants.
- Let the leaves rot down for another year if you want to use as soil conditioner.
If you want to make things neater or you have a bigger garden you can make a Leaf Bin a bit like a compost bin but more open.
Making a leaf bin
Here’s how to make a bin 60cm square by 90cm high – if you change the dimensions, make sure you can still reach easily into the bin to remove the leaf mould.
You will need:
- 1 roll galvanised chicken netting: 3m x 0.9m (10ft x 3ft)
- 4 tree stakes: 1.2m x 40mm (4ft x 1.5in)
- 20 galvanised staples
- Wire cutters
- Heavy gloves
Hammer the tree stakes into the ground, 60cm apart, to make a square frame. Keep as upright as possible and leave 90cm of stake above ground. Unroll chicken wire and attach to first stake with five galvanised staples. Pull tightly to the next stake, attach with staples again and repeat on all sides. Wearing gloves, snip off any excess wire with clippers and bend in any sharp edges.
Using leafmould in the Garden
Good quality, well-rotted leafmould (more than two years old) can be used as
- seed-sowing compost
- mixed equally with sharp sand, garden compost and good quality soil for use as potting compost.
Poor quality leafmould or leafmould that is less than two years old can be used as
- soil improver
- autumn top-dressing for lawns
- winter covering for bare soil.
After one year most leafmould can be crumbled by hand and while it won’t be fully broken down, it’s good enough for the kitchen garden. Use it as a Gardening mulch around existing crops and fruit bushes, dig it in to improve the condition of your soil, or just leave it on the surface over winter for the earthworm population to dig it in for you.
So this weekend while cleaning up leaves why not make your own Leaf Mould and help your garden bloom?
If you enjoyed this post why not check out my post on 50 things you can Compost to help you make gorgeous compost for your garden using kitchen scraps. You can find all about the Snapshot and Snippets Kitchen Garden here.
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