|It’s autumn and the leaves are falling! If they fall on the garden - leave them! They will form a mulch, protect delicate plants from frost (to a limited extent, at least) and slowly break down into compost adding humus and improving the soil, another side effect is that they are useful to garden animals as bedding for hibernation. If they fall on the pond, get them out, they can rot and poison the water. If they fall on the path, sweep them up - slippery when wet! If they fall on grass - sweep them up! They will choke the grass! If they fall on railway lines, take the car to work (Headlines, 13th October 2008 - Leaves on Line Delays Trains - only kidding).
So you’ve swept up all these leaves now what to do with them? Essentially there are three options. Down to the local tip and throw them away, add them to the compost bin, or make leaf mould.
Down the local tip is a complete waste. Add to the compost heap, the green option, good move but there is a better one! Make leaf mould, leaves were made for it! (Sorry)
Autumn leaves rot down to make leaf mould, a very natural, pleasant, brown, crumbly compost like material. Leaf mould is a superb soil improver, lawn conditioner and mulch. It can also be used in seed and potting mixes.
Leaf mould is:
- Easy to make, cuts out bonfires and saves using peat.
- Clean and easy to handle.
- Good for the soil and cuts down on watering.
- Can be used on any soil at any time of year.
DO USE: leaves that fall in the autumn, the brown and look dead looking ones!
DON'T USE: evergreen leaves - like holly, laurel or Leyland cypress or other conifers.
Making Leaf Mould
The equipment needed is highly sophisticated - the cheapest black bin liners you can buy.
Scoop all your leaves into the bin liners, pour in a little water to make everything nice and damp and loosely tie the top of the bag. Gently prick the bag all over with a garden fork. Store behind the garden shed for about six months.
After about six months have a look some bags will have rotted down some won’t, if not moisten with a little more water (keeping it damp is the secret!) and leave for another six months or so. If you get impatient - have a look - you won’t break anything!
If it’s broken down but not completely you can still use it to mulch around your plants or dig in as a soil conditioner but you really do need to let it break down completely for seed and potting mixes. Different leaves break down at different rates, some take only six months, some as long as 2 years, but they all get there in the end!
Granddad’s Tip: A real tip from my granddad - if you pee on the dead leaves it breaks them down faster and adds extra zing to your leaf mould! Apparently (from a little investigation) this is actually scientifically true! Human, particularly male, urine adds nitrogen, speeds the breaking down process and is totally harmless! Also, I guess, helps save the planet! (Less flushing the loo.) However you do need to be on pretty good terms with your neighbours before trying it! But that’s your problem!