Leaf mould is made when autumn leaves are broken down by the slow action of fungi, rather than by bacteria that decompose other compost bin ingredients. Pile leaves up separately in a bespoke leaf mould bin or cage and you’ll have the perfect material to use for mulching and potting in years to come.
Watch Monty Don‘s video demonstration on collecting leaves and storing them to create leaf mould, with storage techniques for both large and small gardens.
The leaves of all deciduous trees make good leaf mould, but some break down more quickly than others. Small thin leaves such as birch break down fairly quickly, while large leathery ones such as chestnut benefit from being shredded first. Evergreen leaves and conifer needles take far longer to rot and should not be included in great quantities, and then only when chopped.
More on making leaf mould:
Before you build your leaf mould heap, choose a position that’s out of sight but easy to access. It should be shaded in summer but not too sheltered from the rain.
You Will Need
- Weed-smothering membrane
- Chicken wire
- Tree stakes (four)
- Rubber mallet
- Wire or twine
Cut a piece of weed-smothering membrane to about 1m², allowing a little extra at the edges to tuck around the chicken wire. Use it to line the base of the heap to stop roots and weeds invading your leaf mould and rendering it unusable.
Depending on the width of your chicken wire, cut four tree stakes and hammer them into the ground about 1m apart, using a rubber mallet.
Cut a length of galvanised or coated chicken wire to go around the four posts, allowing some overlap, and secure it with wire or twine.
Your cage is now ready. If you chop up the leaves first to reduce their volume, you’ll be able to cram more in. They will shrink down by about two-thirds once they start to rot and should be ready in a year or two.