Rachel is a passionate plantsperson, YouTuber and author living in Ireland. She grows a wide range of hardy subtropical and tropical plants.
A Great Way to Use Autumn Leaves
Today I want to show you the easiest and quickest ways to make leaf mould. In November, your garden is probably carpeted with lots and lots of fallen leaves. If left to their own devices, leaves will take at least two years to break down enough for your plants to derive goodness from them. It's a much better idea to collect leaves and make leaf mould out of them.
What Kind of Leaves Can Be Used for Leaf Mould?
Most leaves can be turned into leaf mould, but some will take longer to break down than others. Oak, alder and hornbeam rot down quickly, while sycamore, beech, horse chestnut and sweet chestnut take a little longer.
Pine needles are best collected separately. They can be made into a leaf mould that is naturally acidic, which is an excellent mulch for ericaceous plants like rhododendrons.
The leaves from evergreen and conifer trees are best added to your composting process, not your leaf mould.
The Easiest Way to Make Leaf Mould
While this is the easiest way to make leaf mold, it's not the quickest. For a leaf mould that only takes 6 months to make, please see the section below.
- Collect leaves together in piles. This can be done when the leaves are wet or dry.
- Stuff them in a stout plastic bag until it's 2/3 full.
- Water so that the leaves are wet, but not sloppy.
- Mix them around and close the bag.
- With a garden fork, pierce some holes in the side of the bag.
- Place the bag in a shaded position and check every now and then to ensure the leaves are not drying out.
- If they are, water them and reseal the bag.
By making your leaf mould in a closed bag, no weed seeds can contaminate it (unless, of course, you collected your leaves from a weedy area).
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How to Make Leaf Mould in 6 Months
Your leaves will break down much more quickly if you chop them. The easiest way to do this is with the lawnmower. For this quick method, insert the following three steps into the process outlined above.
- Rake your leaves together and go over them with the mower.
- Repeat this process two to four times, chopping the leaves smaller each time.
- Finally, collect up all the leaves with whatever cut grass is in the mix and put this in your plastic bag. The leaf and grass clippings will give you a good carbon and nitrogen mix. Aim for a ratio of 80% leaves to 20% grass.
Leaf Mould Accelerator
Now here's an extra tip. When watering your leaves, you can use urine as an accelerator. Just add some to your watering can and sprinkle it on your leaves.
If your leaves have been chopped nice and small and you keep them moist, you should get fabulous leaf mould in just six months with this method.
What Is Leaf Mould and How Is It Used?
Leaf mould is a dark brown, crumbly material, that has many uses in the garden. Well-rotted leaf mould can be used for sowing seeds or can be mixed in equal parts with garden compost, soil and horticultural grit to make an excellent potting compost. Less well-rotted leaf mould can be used as a mulch on your flower beds or as a soil improver.
Leaf Mould vs. Compost
The difference between compost and leaf mould is that compost is made from a variety of garden plants, both green and brown, and it's nutritious. Leaf mould, on the other hand, is made usually only from deciduous leaves, and it serves to add texture to soil. Making compost is a bacterial process, while making leaf mold is a fungal process.
More Autumn Gardening Tips
- Garden Trees With Beautiful Fall Foliage (Plus Growth and Care Tips)
From the full moon maple, which delights with crimson leaves, to the multicolored sweetgum, learn about a few garden trees to plant for fall foliage.
- Lifting Dahlias: How to Lift Dahlia Tubers in Fall
Learn when to lift your dahlias and how to properly store them over winter with this step-by-step guide!
- How to Sow Cornflowers in Autumn for Bigger Plants in Spring
Autumn sowing cornflower seeds is a great way to ensure an early, colorful display of annual plants.
© 2021 Rachel Darlington