Make your own leafmould
The fallen leaves of autumn mean it’s a great time to make your own leaf mould. Leaf mould is made when autumn leaves are broken down by the slow action of fungi, rather than by bacteria that decompose other compost bin ingredients. By creating piles of leaves in a bin or cage, you have the perfect material to use for mulching and potting in years to come. Here’s a handy ‘how to’ guide on making your own;
The type of leaves you use can impact on the success of your leafmould. Leaves from deciduous trees (think birch, cherry, hazel etc) make good leaf mould, but some break down more quickly than others. The small thin leaves from a birch break down fairly quickly, but if you have leaves from a chestnut tree for example, due to their size, they will need shredded. Evergreen leaves and needles from conifers take longer to rot and should not be included in great quantities, and then only when chopped.
Building a leaf mould storage area
Creating a dedicated space for your leaf mould will aid growth and help organise your garden. Be sure to select a position that you can access easily – and one that is shaded in summer but won’t be too sheltered from the rain.
Storage area shopping list
- Weed-smothering membrane
- Chicken wire
- Tree stakes (four)
- Rubber mallet
- Wire or twine
Storage creation in 4 easy steps
- Cut a piece of weed-smothering membrane to about 1m², allowing a little extra at the edges to tuck around the chicken wire. Use it to line the base of the heap to stop roots and weeds invading your leaf mould. A leaf mould full of weeds is unusable.
- Cut 4 tree stakes and hammer then into the ground – about 1m apart
- Take some chicken wire around the four posts (with a little overlap) and secure with wire or twine
- Step back and admire your work! Before you then chop up the leaves to reduce volume. Once they start to rot they’ll shrink down by about 2/3 and will be ready to use in 12-24 months.
Once you’ve created your leafmould storage, it’s time to start filling it. There are a few ways to collect leaves so you can choose what works for you.
- Use a lightweight pair of grabbers with long handles to collect a large amount of leaves at one time. Alternatively, two seed trays do the job just as well
- Use a gentle, flat-tined rake for sweeping leaves off the lawn and gravel areas of the garden on a daily basis
- A leaf blower – particularly one that also collects and shreds leaves is a great tool to use (or borrow!) If you can, use an electric one that can be switched from blowing to sucking. Blow any extra leaves under hedges as they can provide shelter for wildlife.
- Rotary lawn mower – this is another useful tool. Sweep up all the leaves from your lawn into one big pile then run the mower over them. As well as chopping them up, it will add grass cuttings to the pile which accelerates the composting process
Top tip – Leaves have a habit of jumping out of wheelbarrows when they are on the move! Pack them into a couple of large bin bags – they’re still easy to lift when full.
If you would like any advice on leafmould, pop in and see us!