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ZERO WASTE GARDENING

How to compost

Compost Safely

Emptying your Bin

To turn or not to turn?

Worms and Wormeries

Topical Composting

Kitchen Waste

Prickly prunings

Weeds and Weeds

Too much grass?

Leaves for leafmould

Troubleshooting

Shows

Composting demonstrated

SCHOOL WORMERIES

Leaves raking upUSING FALLEN LEAVES TO MAKE LEAFMOULD

The garden may be smothered in fallen leaves but this is not a problem, it is another harvest to gather and use to enrich your soil or your containers.

Making leafmould is particularly easy – you only need leaves, rain and time!

You can collect fallen leaves in the traditional way by raking them into piles with a spring tine rake
Or you can pick up armfuls from where they gather against a fence
Or, if they fall on grass, you can take the easy way out and use a rotary Leaves mowing upmower like a vacuum cleaner to pick them all up for you. Not only that but the mower will chop them for you as well.

Once you have collected your fallen leaves you need a place to store them
while they break down.
You can pack them into plastic sacks, making sure the leaves are very wet, tie up the
sacks, spike a few holes in the plastic and put them in an out of the way place for a year or two.
If you have a large quantity of leaves why not make a special leafmould bay. This is simply rabbit wire wrapped round 4 stobs. It is doesn’t need to be in a sunny place, under a tree will do fine, but it must be on earth. Tip the leaves into the bay, they will quickly sink down so you will be able to keep on adding more and more. Don’t cover the top but let the winter rains keep everything wet.
If you are concerned that weed seeds may blow in and germinate you can cover the top in the spring once the leaves have started to decompose.

How long will the leaves take to turn into leafmould?
That depends on the type of leaf:
Oak and beech are the slowest to rot down, taking 30 months.
leaf bayAsh, sycamore, birch and apple leaves rot down quickly and will make good leafmould in 18 months. Chopped up leaves will rot down more quickly.
If you only have a small quantity of these fast rotting leaves you can add them direct to your home compost heap where they will improve the texture of your compost.
Evergreen leaves like holly and laurel take several years to rot down, as do the needles of conifers, so these are best treated separately, for example put them in their own plastic bag and forget about them for 3 years.
Rhododendron leaves may be particularly slow.

Using the leafmould.
After a year and another winter have passed take a look at your leafmould. There will probably be a crust of dried leaves on top that have not broken down, but underneath there should be good, dark, crumbly leafmould.
This is brilliant mixed with home made compost and used to fill pots and containers. And it is free. Use one part leafmould to two parts of home made compost.
If you are lucky enough to have made large quantities of leafmould you can dig it in to the soil where it will improve the structure, help water retention and provide a little nutrient for your plants. Or you can use it as a mulch round special plants.
Because leafmould helps to retain moisture but is also light and airy, preventing waterlogging, plants grown with leafmould are less stressed and so suffer from fewer diseases.

So don't waste those leaves - use them to make your garden more beautiful and productive.