And the leaves that are green... turn to brown!
To make leafmould
Perhaps the best time to collect leaves is just after it has rained when they will be well soaked. Alternatively hose them down with water. Now you simply fill the Leafmould Maker with the leaves, compressing each layer as you go. Even if you fill your Leafmould Maker, the volume of leaves will gradually but significantly reduce over the coming months. If you fill your cage then place the 'lid' on top of the leaves to prevent any wind scattering. At its simplest that's it, all you have to do now is wait. We have two great value Leafmould Composters available on our Leafmould Composting page.
After about one year the leaves should be sufficiently rotted to use as a mulch or to dig into your soil. To achieve a finer product e.g .to use as a lawn dressing or in potting composts simply leave it for a further year and you'll have an excellent peat alternative with numerous gardening applications.
It is best not to mix up leaves from different years as this will result in a less even and consistent end product. After the first year the leafmould pile should be quite stable and sufficiently rotted that wind scattering won't be a problem. Better still, why not have two Leadmould Makers for a neat and tidy continuous process?
To Speed up the Process
There are several simple ways to quicken the process and achieve leafmould in about half the normal time.
Shred the leaves before filling the Leafmould Maker. This can be done using a garden shredder, or by spreading your leaves on the lawn and running a lawn mower over them. A cylinder mower with a grass box is ideal for this, as it will shred and collect in one operation. Any bits of grass (seed free) collected in this process will also help to speed up leafmould making.
As shredding is best done with dry leaves to avoid clogging up your shredder or mower - remember to wet them before filling your leafmould cage.
Unusual as it may sound; human urine is an excellent natural activator rich in nitrogen. If you care to, simply pour a few pints (diluted 50/50 with water) over the leaves. Any more direct application methods are entirely up to you and at your risk!
Turn and add grass clippings
In the first spring after filling, empty out the leaves, mix with fresh grass clippings (in the proportion of 4 parts leaves to 1 part grass - ie 25% grass) and refill the leafmould maker compressing the leaf/grass mixture as you go.
Any or all of these simple actions will significantly speed up the whole process.
Why not just compost leaves with other garden waste?
Leaves have a fibrous structure and are slow to rot down. Mixing with conventional compost material will slow down your compost heap and reduce its heat generation. Leafmould making is a slow cool process performed by fungi (hence mould) naturally present in leaves. On the other hand composting is a faster, heat generating process utilising naturally occurring microbes and bacteria.
What leaves can I use?
Virtually any tree or shrub leaves will make a good leafmould. Oak and beech leaves are perhaps a bit quicker to rot and plane, chestnut and sycamore leaves a bit slower.
The typical ph (acidity/alkalinity) of leafmould is between 6.5 and 7.5 ie about neutral. A preponderance of conifer an evergreen leaves or needles will tend to produce a more acidic leafmould. Such acidic leafmould would be excellent for acid loving plants such as azaleas and rhododendrons.
What if I don't have enough leaves in my garden?
Friends and neighbours will probably be only too keen to let you have their autumn leaf fall. Additionally local authorities collect thousands of tons of leaves each year. So a word with the council, or your local parks department could easily generate a serious quantity of leaves.
To make the best use of your leafmould
Leafmould is one of the longest lasting of all organic soil conditioners. By significantly improving both the organic content and physical structure of soil it results in a considerable increase in fertility wherever applied - all round the garden.
Leafmould can be used to great benefit on vegetable and ornamental beds, for annuals and perennials, and around fruit trees, bushes and shrubs.
Used on any soil type it can be dug in or spread as a surface mulch.
Use just like peat or bark as a quality surface mulch. For water retention purposes spread a layer of 1-1.5 inches. For water retention and weed suppression a layer of 2-2.5 inches.
Fine well rotted leafmould makes an excellent top dressing for a lawn or seed bed. It is useful, although not essential, to sieve the leafmould prior to using it as a top dressing. For top dressing a lawn the best time is in the main growing season. Apply a thin layer of fine leafmould after spiking the lawn, then simply brush it in. If required this can be repeated several times during the grass growing season.
Mix 1 part of well rotted and sieved leafmould with 1 part of sharp sand. This will produce an excellent free rotting medium with sufficient nutrients for seedlings up to pricking off stage.
Making a potting compost
Being similar to sedge peat, leafmould is a useful constituent of a potting compost. Two typical formulas are outlined below:-
1 part well rotted leafmould
1 part garden loam
2 parts compost
1 part well rotted leafmould
1 part worm worked compost
1 part garden loam
1 part perlite
Click here to view our selection of great value Leafmould Composting products.