Near our house, we have two beautiful big maple trees that show off their colourful beauty come autumn time. They dump a huge amount of orange, red and yellow leaves that cover the grass in a thick blanket. It seems such a waste to just let them decompose all over the place without getting any benefits.
Even if your street has no deciduous trees on it, I’m sure somewhere close to you at least, there is a bounty of fallen leaves. Make the most of what nature is offering, turn those leaves into the magic that is leaf mould!
Leaf mould is leaves that have decomposed and broken down into a wonderfully nutrient-rich compost. It’s earthy, dark, crumbly and amazing.
It’s fantastic for your garden for moisture retention, as a soil conditioner and ensures your soil doesn’t leach nutrients. It also contains a massive amount of minerals and provides nutrients to all the beneficial microbes you want in your garden. Leaf mould can be used to enrich your pre-existing garden beds, just add it to the top of your soil or mix it in with compost. It can be used as a mulch around your plants to help with water retention.
Leaf mould is so easy to make BUT it takes a long time to make so it’s not just a matter of scooping up the decomposing leaves on the grass and chucking those in your garden. The leaf mould you make today won’t be ready until at least autumn next year.
Don’t worry though, it takes time but hardly any effort.
So let’s make some leaf mould. Firstly, collect your leaves! Fill your basket/bag/wheelbarrow as high as you can. Once the leaves start breaking down they shrink considerably so what seems like a lot isn’t that much. Pile those leaves in a heap, in an empty compost bin, in green waste bags or make your own leaf mould cage with a few stakes and some chicken wire. Then essentially, you just leave those leaves to break down. No other ingredients are added which makes this different from regular compost. This is just pure carbon.
*If you can, don’t use leaves found in the gutters or on the roads as these may contain toxins and oils from cars, or have been sprayed by pesticides. My local council always sprays our sidewalks, unfortunately.
If you want to speed up the process, you can cover your leaves with some sort of plastic tarpaulin to keep in the heat but this is not necessary. If you do cover it, make sure air can still get in.
The leaves need to stay damp and not dry out to break down efficiently. When the weather gets hotter, check your leaves to see that they aren’t drying out and water as necessary. You want to keep a nice even level of moisture in there.
Check your leaves in autumn next year to see how they are doing. If they’re dark and crumbly with an earthy smell it is ready to use.