Pure leaf mould is the finest garden compost. It takes up to two years to make the perfect batch but it makes the best and longest-lasting mulch, and can also be used as an ingredient in home-made potting compost. Leaves are rotted by a combination of fungal moulds and microbes that need air and moisture to do their work, so make the heap open at the sides and moist before covering with landscape fabric to weight it down and keep the heat in.
Put leaves through a shredder for faster results and, if you don’t have much space, black polythene bags work well if pierced to allow air in. If you’re very short of room for extra compost heaps, the leaves can be swept up and added to the general compost, but the results will not be fine enough for anything other than mulch.
No room for a bin? Here, Monty Don demonstrates how to make leaf mould in plastic sacks:
You Will Need
- Sturdy wooden stakes
- Chicken wire
- Autumn leaves
Drive pressure-treated posts into the ground to make a circle or square, 1m high. Keep posts vertical or slightly angled out to make filling with leaves easy.
Wrap wire mesh, with holes no bigger than 50mm, around the posts. Pull it taut and secure to the posts with galvanised staples or cable ties.
Fill the cage with leaves (shred any larger leaves) and use a watering can to moisten them as they go in if necessary. Tamp down as you fill and cover the top with a porous fabric.
Leaf mould shrinks to about a quarter of its original mass once composted. Lift out a sample; it should be brown, friable and sweet-smelling