With Autumn getting into full swing more leaves are falling from the trees each day – which is good news for family walks, who doesn’t love stomping through a big pile of crispy leaves? It’s also good news for gardeners, as fallen Autumn leaves give us the perfect opportunity to make leaf mould.
Leaf mould is basically rotted-down leaves. It’s low in nutrients, but it makes a brilliant mulch which you can spread on your soil to improve its condition. Worms adore it, so they drag it down into the earth where it improves soil structure and water retention. You can also mix it with potting compost for a nutrient-rich start for plants. It’s dead easy to make too; here’s how.
If you have enough room, make a square-ish bay for your leaves out of chicken wire with wooden posts at the corners – you just need to contain them so they don’t blow away. Leave the top open and the rain will do the job of keeping things damp for you – the leaves need moisture in order to decompose. If you’re wondering whether rotting leaves smell awful, they don’t because its fungal rather than bacterial activity that’s going on here.
If space is tight you can make leaf mould perfectly well in a black bin bag; just fill it up with leaves, add some water and punch a few holes in the bag to allow excess water to drain away. Tie the top of the bag, shove it out of sight somewhere, and next Autumn you’ll have lovely leaf mould for minimum effort.
Thinner leaves such as ash, hawthorn and hornbeam rot down the quickest; thicker leaves such as oak take longer. Don’t be tempted to add evergreen leaves to your pile, they take forever!
Making leaf mould is a great garden job for kids to help with; creating a big pile of leaves is lots of fun, as is stomping it down to make room for more. A quick, fun garden activity for Autumn with the added bonus of free mulch next year – perfect!