Collect fallen leaves for leaf-mould. Store moist leaves in black plastic bags and after a year or so you’ll have a rich, crumbly mulch your plants will love.
Much as I love autumn, I do dread picking up all the leaves. It’s never ending, especially when you live at the end of a wind tunnel like we do. But great things can come of all that hard work. Here’s how to turn those damp leaves into a rich mulch for your garden:
Stack your leaves in a wire mesh compost bin
You can mix a few leaves into your compost heap, but too many will make the compost slimy. You’re better off stacking large quantities separately, using a wire mesh bin to keep them tidy. You can easily cobble together a wire mesh compost bin by wrapping chicken wire around four supporting stakes. The secret is not to let the leaves dry out, so you should sprinkle them with a little water during dry periods, or turn them occasionally to mix wet leaves with dry.
Pack leaves into black plastic bags
If you have a smaller garden you can fill black plastic bin liners with your leaves. Rake them up just after rain so they’re nice and moist and pack them into the bags. Tie the bags at the top and pierce them to encourage air to circulate. Alternatively, you can use biodegradable leaf sacks. Stack the bags somewhere out of the way and forget about them for at least a year while the leaves break down into a rich, crumbly leaf-mould. Some leaves take longer to decompose than others. You’ll find, for example, that oak, hornbeam and alder leaves will take longer to break down than sycamore, chestnut and beech. Avoid using evergreen leaves for leaf-mould because they take too long to break down.
Good things come to those who wait
Although leaf-mould takes longer to make than compost, once you’ve packed the leaves in a wire mesh bin or plastic bags you can just leave them alone. After a year to eighteen months you’ll have a rich, crumbly mulch, which you can either spread around the plants and borders in your garden, dig in as a soil improver, or mix with your potting compost.