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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 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.
What is the difference between leaf mould and 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.
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.
If you’re wondering whether rotting leaves smell awful, they don’t, because its fungal rather than bacterial activity that’s going on here.
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 make leaf mould perfectly well in a black 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 about a year after you start it off. It’s quite a slow process, but the unique properties of leaf mould make it well worth it. And it puts all those unwanted leaves to good use too!
I said it was easy didn’t I! You might like to check out this video from Gardener’s World 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!
For more ideas to help you save money in the garden, check out my post on gardening on a budget.