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Talkback: Making leaf mould

Kate, Have been anxious (recently I seem to be casting around for things to be anxious about) that I pack my leaves too firmly into the upr...

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I have a eucalyptus tree that is growing in a neighbours garden that is soooo massive it overhangs the end of my garden. The main problem is all the leaves and bark that it drops everywhere all year round. Can anyone tell me if I can compost these leaves and bark or if they will make leaf mould. Not sure how they will break down as they seem to last forever. Thanks.
Oh, we laughed out loud at : “These creatures make a great soil conditioner when dead…” even though it is a sobering thought.
Makes great leafmould after a year or two in black plastic bags, Mrs. Panda. But I leave a lot under the tree for the fungi to break down and grew beautiful ferns in it. The larger bits of pink bark can be crumbled up and make great mulch for a path in my woodland walk.
Nice tips Kate. I make leafmould with leaves raked off the lawn but sometimes top up with leaves from under my hedge. I’ll keep an eye out now for bugs and hogs


I agree wholeheartedly re concreting or otherwise front gardens, not only from a wildlife point of view but the wholesale waste of rain water. We are being repeatedly told not to waste water but I have never seen any mention of this waste.
I have been clearing the leave’s off the grass I wont call it lawn,With two golden retrievers there’s not much lawn left,only to be told by Mrs Old chippy too through them away and not make leaf mould and also clear under all the bushes ,when I told her to read this blog, She replied that she is not interested in biodiversity,I walk the dogs on Banstead Downs Golf course and there have been large number’s of mushroom’ there for some month now.
So glad biodiversity is strong in your household, old chippy. Certainly diversity of opinion on what to do with the leaves. Better not tell Mrs Old chippy that I rate being too tidy as the eighth deadly sin. Perhaps that is being too diverse.
Leafmould always has a special musty smell – our (now very few) leaves go on the compost heap and the compost is excellent. We used to have many sycamores which produced loads of leafmould which rotted down more quickly if packed in black sacks and left a year or two. There are always lots of beasts in the compost, beetles, slugs, worms and others overwinter there.
I wonder if anyone has noticed an increase in the number of mushrooms – we have them growing in our lawn in great numbers, lots of different sizes, some very small. I wish I were brave enough to identify them and have them for breakfast but not willing to take the chance!
Yes, midgelet, there are loads of fungi – great sheets of them at the Bristol University Botanic Garden. I have lived a long time but have never seen as many before. The weather conditions must have been just right for them. You are wise to be cautious about eating them, but you can go on identification courses. The button mushrooms in my garden are the result of using mushroom compost!
have been given a plant for my recent birthday…..Leucothoe axillaris Curly Red. Can you give me some information on this tall will it grow, does it need to be in the garden, it is in a pot now..
Mary go to BBC website scroll down to Gardening, Plane finder you will find your plant there Good Luck /Old chippy.
Midgelet, I am from England now living and gardening in Czech Republic, where a large variety of fungi grow wild in the pine woods.Every autumn you see the local people heading for the woods carring wicker baskets to collect the very delicious wild mushrooms. They all know what you can pick and what should be left alone a skill that is still handed down from one generation to another. Some of the fungi collected look like and are as big as footballs, these have a very delicate flovour and are eaten instead of meat and with a lot of people unemployed or on a very low wage this is a free meal. The smaller varieties are washed, sliced, egg and breadcrumbed then fried and eaten with tartar sauce and salad. Anything left over are dried and used during the winter months for soup or stew and served with dumplings, not at all like the english variety these are big made from bread of potato and are very filling. Although I would not trust my own judgement to pick the correct fungi on an early morning forage in the nearby woods, I am quite ahppy to accept the offer of a choice of multi coloured mushrooms from a wicker basket when there is a knock on the door during the autumn season.
Thanks for all your comments.

Mrs Panda – yes, eventually, but the leaves are quite waxy.

Moaning Millie – are you referring to water being wasted by the concreting of gardens? I have touched on the subject a couple of times: paving over front gardens, building a green roof, water gardens

Old Chippy – I’m sorry to hear your wife doesn’t value biodiversity. I bet she likes feeding the birds though. One of the reasons sparrows and song thrushes are declining is a loss of natural food for their young. Birds visit feeders themselves, but nearly always feed caterpillars and insects to their young. So the more caterpillars and insects sleeping under your leaves in winter, the more baby birds there will be in your garden in spring. Do you think she’ll go for that?

I’ve not seen any mushrooms this year! The small crop that emerged in my garden last year has not appeared this autumn.




Have been anxious (recently I seem to be casting around for things to be anxious about) that I pack my leaves too firmly into the upright circly cage I’ve made – any ideas? Also, should I wet them when they’re in that kind of open cage?


Sheila Averbuch
Kate Bradbury
Sheila - don't worry about packing the leaves too tight. They'll still rot down. There should be no need to wet them if they're in an open cage.


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