Last week I had my first go at making leaf mould. Well, when I say ‘making’, that’s a bit of a grand claim, because basically all I did was collect up a load of wet leaves and put them in a couple of old plastic bags. Now I’ll leave them for two years and then hopefully I’ll have some amazing leaf mould to put on the garden.
Three things I’ve learnt about leaf mould…
Better than composting – Autumn leaves compost at a slower pace than the rest of the compost heap (I’ve found this with some beech tree leaves in my compost bin – they’re just so reluctant to break down!), so it’s a good idea to compost them separately and more slowly into leaf mould.
Brilliant mulch – Leaf mould is a brilliant mulch – it can protect from the cold in the winter, or keep in moisture and suppress weeds in the spring and summer.
Not all leaves are the same – Leaves contain about 80% of a trees’ nutrients, but as autumn comes, the trees absorb these nutrients back before the leaves fall. What is left is ‘lignin’ – the substance that makes the structure of the leaf. Some trees’ fallen leaves are higher in lignin/lower in nutrients (e.g. beech, birch, hornbeam, oak, sweet chestnut, magnolia) and so take a longer time to break down, while others have less lignin and more nutrients (e.g. cherry, maple, poplar, willow), and break down more quickly. One of my bags is a mix of high lignin beech and low lignin willow, the other is just beech, so I’ll be able to compare the different rates.
So we’ll see what we’ve got in two years’ time. Hopefully I won’t forget all about them!
On a final note, most of our leaves we’re leaving on the ground – for wildlife to hide in over winter, and for worms to pull down into the soil to enrich it. Here’s a picture from across the pond this morning, golden poplar leaves like gems in the grass.
View across the pond this morning