MAKING LEAFMOULD FROM AUTUMN LEAVES
– a perfect harvest!
Trees provide a valuable harvest at this time of
year: their dead leaves rot down to make leafmould which we can use
in lots of ways around the garden. This leafmould is quite low in
nutrients but acts as an ideal soil conditioner and will help
conserve moisture in the soil. We dig leafmould into the ground, use
it as a mulch or as an alternative to peat in a home made potting
mix. We simply add it to the compost heap or use fresh leaves as a
winter mulch or as protection for the crowns of tender perennial
leaves in this way we don't even have to gather them up!
Which leaves to use?
Almost any leaf will rot down to make leafmould, some more quickly
than others. Ash and Elder are very quick, Beech and Oak very slow.
Avoid evergreens like Laurel and Holly, they are very tough and slow
to rot and also needles from conifers like Norway spruce that have
resins that slow down decomposition.
Use a very large bag to collect the leaves, they’re not too heavy
after all. They often pile up at the edges of paths or up
a barrier – easy for collecting. Another good place is on the lawn.
Just run the lawn mower over them. This way, they’ll be chopped up
so will rot down more quickly.
After making sure they are really wet, simply put the leaves in a
black plastic bag, spike it in several places, tie it up and leave
it for between 1 and 2 years, depending on what kind of leaves they
a larger quantity, make a leafmould bay from 4 stobs [posts] and
chicken wire. See our leaflet
Grass and Leaves for more information about this.
Another option is to use old pallets to form a box. Either way, the
leaves will sink down quite quickly so you can keep adding more to
the heap. Leave the heap open to the winter rains and within one or
two seasons you’ll have ideal leafmould.
An empty builders' dumpy bag makes an instant leafmould container:
put it in a corner so that it does not splay in all
directions, or secure each handles to a post.
Because these containers are all open at the top, rain will keep the
When you come to use the leafmould
You will find the leaves may not all have rotted on the
top since they will probably be dry. Scrape
them off to
reveal excellent leafmould underneath.
As a soil conditioner
Dig leafmould into the soil. It will add bulk to thin, silty soils
and help to conserve moisture. It will help break up clay soil,
making it easier to manage.
Spread leafmould on the soil to a depth of 10cm if you want to
prevent annual weeds from germinating. You can reduce the depth of
leafmould to 5cm if you first lay a few sheets of newspaper on the
soil and cover these with leafmould.
Use leafmould to protect the crowns of tender perennials from hard
frost. A 10cm depth of leafmould, without paper, is needed to
Use a thick layer of fresh leaves to protect the soil over winter.
They will be absorbed into the soil over the winter months.
As a potting mix
See Compost mixes for
details on how to use leafmould in home made potting mixes.
You may grow container plants in a mix that includes leafmould. You
can conserve moisture in the pot by topping off with a thick layer
Leaves are a resource too precious to
More on leaves
Leaves as a mulch