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Leaf mould

Posted: Monday 2 December 2013
by James Alexander-Sinclair

One of the things we lack in this garden are any trees with spectacular leaves. For example, we have no caramel-scented Katsura trees.


One of the things we lack in this garden are any trees with spectacular leaves. For example, we have no caramel-scented Katsura trees. Instead, we have some of the less spectacular, but equally valuable, performers. My mother-in-law has a couple of Liquidambars and a Parrotia, so I can always wander next door if I want a bit of flashiness.

We have field maple, Acer campestre, which has leaves the colour of butter. We have beech - which is probably the most undervalued tree for autumn colour ever. Its leaves are a glorious amalgam of caramel, yellow, honey, buff, beige, chocolate, umber, sepia, bronze, Crunchie, auburn, fawn, biscuit etc. You get the picture.

We also have a lot of ash trees which are mostly pretty dull, but are excellent for making leaf mould - and that is the ultimate destiny of all leaves, no matter how glorious their final demise may be: whether dying in a flare of scarlet or a mucky brown, they all end up decaying into a wonderful crumbly mulch.

We use the leaves here in two ways. Any that fall on borders are left where they are, and the worms come and do the work. Leaves that fall on paths are swept into piles and added to the compost heap - particularly nutritious are those swept up in the chicken run as they're suffused with chicken droppings.

You could make leaf mould separately to your compost if you so wish: either by making simple enclosures from chicken wire into which you pile leaves and then just wait. Or, if you have less space, you could pile them into bags (if plastic then punch some holes in the sides to accelerate decay) and let them quietly get on with things. (There is a lovely film of Alys Fowler doing precisely that here.)

Whichever way you choose, you're guaranteed to end up with some wonderful compost: perfect for mulching, potting or just running through your fingers.



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Talkback: Leaf mould
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oldchippy 02/12/2013 at 16:49

There's a good chance that tomorrow I will be able to rake up the last of my leave's now my stitches are out of my hand,I haven't been able to use my hand for nearly three weeks,the exercise will do my good and being out side in the fresh air will make life better.

oldchippy 02/12/2013 at 16:50

There's a good chance that tomorrow I will be able to rake up the last of my leave's now my stitches are out of my hand,I haven't been able to use my hand for nearly three weeks,the exercise will do me good and being out side in the fresh air will make life better.

Woodgreen wonderboy 02/12/2013 at 18:31

Take care raking… you will discover some muscles you never knew you had! Don't put your new hand at risk either.

Rob D 05/12/2013 at 19:27

I love making leaf-mould - I use leaves from neighbours' trees, and I rake up leaves from the local church footpaths - it makes me feel virtuous! But I do wonder whether it is really worth it, as it takes well over a year for them to rot down, and when they do there is so little to show for it. I use a 2x2m bin made from wire mesh, and dig the ones that have broken down straight into the soil, and put the rest into a smaller bin made from small pallets to continue rotting down. I do this on my allotment so I can incorporate the leaf bin into the rotation system.

fidgetbones 06/12/2013 at 14:16

Make sure any recent scars are well covered , chippy, you don't want to open them up again. 

I have one builders bag with the contents of two builders bags worth of  oak leaves in from last year. I have filled one bag with leaves from this year.  I expect to use last years leaves next spring, maybe to top dress around the hellebores and between bulbs to show them up better. It takes a long time,but if you have room in an out of the way place, it takes little work other that the initial raking up.

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