By Sarah Buchanan. First published by Rattan Direct on 26 October 2016.
Most autumn leaves falling on your lawn, path or road this week can create fantastic leaf mould for use as garden compost. Think of the dark, soft earth under trees and in woodland walks – and make your own! Instead of sending leaves to refuse collections, make a leaf store that will produce leaf mould for your garden. And clearing leaves helps reduce the hiding places for pests and diseases, and keeps the place looking tidy. Clearing leaves is, for me, THE autumn garden job – just bring on the sunshine !
Make a leaf store to create leaf mould for garden compost
The easy way: fill large plastic sacks with leaves, tie the tops and pierce the bottom with a garden fork and stack them out of sight.
The not too hard way: make a ‘frame’ from chicken wire or any large gauge wire fencing. It is simple to do: bend the wire into a shape about 1 metre square (or a circle), just using the height of the wire you are using (about 1 metre high is fine) from chicken wire or any large gauge wire; then push strong bamboo canes or sticks into the shape to hold it upright and firm. Then simply fill it with leaves. Squash them down during the first few months (jumping on them is my favourite method).
Leave your leaf store for two years. After that the leaf mould produced will be a fantastic soil improver. Be patient – it is well worth the wait.
Collect your leaves!
You will need:
- gloves (leaves are tougher on your hands than you might think)
- a ‘spring rake’ (those rakes with very wide heads that wobble when you press on them)
- two ‘leaf boards’: make them yourself by using two pieces of stiff cardboard, plywood or plastic, each about 45 x 30cm. One in each hand makes it easy to scoop the leaves up and move them
- a wheelbarrow or black bags
- some people use leaf blowers to gather the leaves together but unless you have a lot of leaves its hardly worth it – and raking leaves is good exercise for you!
Collect leaves from garden lawns, paths, drives, household gutters and all those places where leaves collect. If you live on a tree lined road don’t be shy about collecting leaves from the pavements – everyone will think you are doing a grand job to stop them slipping when it rains. But collecting leaves from busy roadsides is not a good idea – its noisy for you and the leaves will be affected by car fumes.
Ideally collect leaves when they are dry and on a dry when there is no wind. If it is windy, rake the leaves in the direction of the wind and collect piles of leaves as you go.
When you mow the lawn, mow the leaves too and add all the cuttings to your leaf store.
BEWARE! Some leaves are not as good in leaf compost as others because they take a long time to rot.
Read the excellent RHS guide on leaf compost to find out which leaves are best to collect, how to store them and the benefits of leaf collection.