With autumn getting into full swing, more leaves are falling from the trees each day. This 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.
What is leaf mould good for?
Leaf mould (or leaf mold if you’re in the US) 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.
Can you grow plants in leaf mould?
Plants will usually need more than just leaf mould to thrive. However, leaf mould is ideal for mixing in with potting compost to provide a nutrient-rich start for plants.
What is the difference between leaf mould and compost?
Wondering if leaf mould is the same as compost? Here’s a quick explanation of the difference between leaf mould vs. compost.
Leaf mould is made up entirely of leaves, and the process by which these are broken down is fungal. Compost on the other hand can be made with a variety of materials – including leaves – and the process by which it is broken down is bacterial. Compost acts as a soil enricher, while leaf mould improves the structure of garden soil and can also be used as a mulch.
Is leaf mould high in nutrients?
Leaf mould isn’t nutrient-rich. Its value is as a soil improver and a mulch rather than a fertiliser.
How to make leaf mould
Making leaf mould is so simple – here’s how to do it.
If you have enough room, make a square-ish bay for your fallen 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. This is important because the leaves need moisture in order to decompose.
Does leaf mould smell?
If you’re wondering whether rotting leaves smell awful, they don’t, because its fungal rather than bacterial activity that’s going on here.
Can you make leaf mould with wet leaves?
It’s fine to use damp leaves, but make sure they’re not soaking wet. Ideally the leaves should be moist, but not dripping.
Does leaf mould need air?
You will get the best results if your leaves have access to both air and moisture.
Can I make leaf mould in a plastic bin?
You can use a standard compost bin to make leaf mould too, but bear in mind that you won’t be able to put other garden waste in it for quite a while!
If space is tight, you can also compost leaves in a black plastic bin bag. Just fill the plastic bag 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 a lovely soil conditioner for minimum effort.
How long does it take to make leaf mould?
Leaf mould should be ready to use 6-12 months after you start it off. It’s quite a slow process, but the unique properties of this free soil enricher make it well worth it. And it puts all those unwanted leaves to good use too!
Should I turn my leaf mould?
You might be wondering whether to turn your leaves in the same way that you turn compost. Turning leaf mould isn’t essential, but doing so can speed up decomposition – so if you’re in a hurry it’s worth a try.
I said it was easy didn’t I! You might like to check out this video which shows you each stage in action.
The best leaves for making leaf mould
Thinner leaves such as ash, hawthorn and hornbeam rot down the quickest. You can use thicker leaves such as oak, but bear in mind they will take longer to decompose. 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 gardening activity for autumn with the added bonus of free mulch next year – perfect!
More gardening tips
For more ideas to help you save money in the garden, check out my post on gardening on a budget. You might also like my series on gardening jobs for each month. And if you like the idea of celebrating all things autumn, take a look at my list of inspiring autumn quotes.