Your fruit and vegetable harvesting might be winding down, but it’s nice to know there’s bounty literally falling onto your garden – Autumn leaves.
If anything makes up for the schlep of raking leaves, it’s leaf mould – nature’s home-made potting compost mix, soil improver and ‘brown’ additive to the often easier-to-acquire ‘green’ components of your compost heap.
Apart from the raking, it’s easy to make – you simply round it up into one place and leave it to rot down. Two easy and tidy ways of doing this are:
– Scooping the leaves into plastic refuse bags, tying loosely and piercing with a few holes before leaving to their own devices in a sheltered spot. Check every now and then to make sure the leaves don’t dry out. If they’re looking dry, simply add a little water.
– Make a simple pen/enclosure using chicken wire or plastic garden mesh. Simply rake the leaves in, stamp them down well and close off. Again, water once in a while if it’s looking dry, but otherwise let nature take its course (which is anything from 1-3 years, so pick your spot wisely).
Shredded or chopped leaves will rot faster than whole ones and take up less space – they also look better if you’re going to use the leaf mould as mulch. Avoid conifer/pine needles and evergreen leaves such as Holly. And where possible, use a good mix of different kinds of leaf – some break down faster than others and the faster-rotting ones will help kick-start slower, thicker leaves such as Oak.
So, why would you want to do this?
Leaf mould adds structure to your soil and introduces good bacteria – next time you’re walking in a deciduous forest, check out what’s under your feet…That crumbly, nice earthy smelling stuff? Leaf mould.
Mulch. Okay, so my spot in SW Ireland isn’t exactly under threat from drought, but mulch keeps the weeds and some garden pests down. If you’re growing somewhere where rainfall/ water conservation is an issue, leaf mould has excellent water retaining properties, making it an excellent mulch.
Mixed with a little compost, leaf mould makes great potting soil.
Shredded up, carbon-rich leaves add excellent ‘brown’ balance to your compost heap. When the first leaves fall on your grass, it’s worth giving them a mow – and adding the resulting grass-leaf clipping mix to your compost.