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Leaves piling up? Make leaf mould!

27th Oct 2017

What with the windy weather of last week, the leaves have really started falling round here now. If you’re finding the same in your garden, then this is the perfect time to start making leaf mould.

If you haven’t heard of it before, leaf mould is a useful soil improver you make from composted leaves. (It’s more like compost than mould, thankfully!)

Making it is easy, but requires patience. Grab some bin liners and stab them all over to make them nice and holey, or use loosely woven sacks. If you have the space, you can even construct a purpose-built leaf bin out of mesh or planks. The main thing is that you want the leaves to be well aerated, but not get too dry.

It doesn’t matter if the leaves are wet or dry when you collect them – you can always add a sprinkling of water. And it doesn’t matter if it’s cold, either, as you will soon warm up as you rake and scoop them up. Pack them into your receptacle and forget about them for at least a year.  If you have a shredder, passing them through this will speed up the rotting process.

Gradually, fungal microbes will turn the leaves into a crumbly substance that is just heavenly for plants. One-year-old leaf mould makes a great mulch to spread round the garden, while even more vintage batches (2-3 years old) will work as a seed compost. It’s worth sieving this and mixing half and half with sand.

Leaf mould is high in carbon, but not very rich in other things. It’s fantastic for soil because worms love it, and as they pull it down from the surface it helps to break up clay soils and add humus. In sandy soils, it improves water retention and binding.

Tougher leaves will take longer to break down than thin leaves and evergreens like laurel are actually better on the compost heap. Pine needles will make an acidic compost best reserved for plants that like that sort of thing (e.g. blueberries).

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