Join me in todays podcast where I am discussing how we could be putting all the leaf litter to good use and create leaf mould. I also have the latest from the plots.
This week on the plots we have been
- Sowing broad beans and peas
- Clearing more weeds
- Pricking out lettuce seedlings.
Check out the podcast to find out more.
Lets put that leaf litter to some use.
Driving around over the last week I am seeing lots of leaves that have turned brown fallen off trees and collecting alongside the roads. Now to many people this is just leaf litter to be swept up and taken down the tip but for the gardener this leaf litter can be very useful stuff as we can turn it into leaf mould.
If you ever go into a woodland you will find that under trees there is some really dark brown crumbly loose material which covers the soil and really suppress weeds that is leafmould.
It is so easy to make Leaf mould too simply collect those leaves that have fallen down, store them in some sort of container and leave for a year or 2 and you will have leafmould its as easy as that in a nutshell but lets get into a bit more detail
The first step is to collect the leaves now I did have a sycamore tree in my garden which produced a lot of leaves which made me decide to buy a garden vaccum to collect all these leaves. It also shredded up the leaves which made the composting process quicker. So I would always recommend chopping up the leaves now a garden vaccum did make this job quicker but if you don’t have onw then run over the loeaves with a lawnmower on a high setting will work.
As for the leaves any leaves are good for making this leaf mould but some leafs do take a little longer to rot down depending on what type of tree they came from but the advice is to avoid any from any evergreen varities such as Holly laurel or conifers. I would also avoid any pine needles as these can be acidic. Which is why pine needles are great for mulching blueberries.
A few years ago I did have to remove that sycamore tree which has meant I don’t have such an easy supply so what I will do instead this year is go to my mums house who happens to live alongside a recreation park and they get piles of leaves pile up in the garden so I will be grabbing those to meake leaf mould from. I do believe we can go to our local park or cemetery to collect the leaf fall from there to use. Councils oftan have to dispose of these leaves anyway which can be at a cost to them and therefore to the tax payer so they are ofton happy for you to take them away. Some councils have been none to take the leaves to allotments to save some money.
The only place to not collect leaves from would be woodland because they are an integral part of that eco system and might have animals living under he leaves. Also I tjink its important to leave some leaves under hedges for hedgehogs we often see our resident hedgehog carrying leaves in its mouth to use in tis home.
Anyway so we got a collection of leaves and weve chopped them up one way or the other now we need somewhere to store it so it can rot down one quick way is to store it in bin bags with a few holes pierced in it and keep these behind a shed. It does work but its a bit of a waste of plastic green bags. I have had some hessian sacks which work for this too and they worked very well especially as the hessian will eventually rot down too which is always better for the environment. We could use an empty compost bin or we could make a leaf mould bin with 4 posts hammered in the ground to make a cube and then use chicken wire outside to make a leaf mould bin which sort of what I have except I made a cube out of wood not hammered into the ground and coered this in chicken wire which has made it a bit more portble for me. To be fair we don’t really need to keep leaves in a container we could just pile these up in ahuge pile although if the wind catches them we could end up having to rake them all up again.
Now we do need to keep these leaves moist to rot down which over the winter is not a huge problem but when it gets dry we might just need to pour over some water to help it out and just keep it moist. What I also found is that when I started I had a huge amount of leaves completly filled up my container and I still had more. But quiet quickly these started to rot down and in the end I reckon the leaves had reduced to about an 8th of what I started with so it does reduce by quiet a huge amount compared to what we started with so what I am planning to do this year to try and get a lot of leagfmould is to collect lots fill up my leafmould bin but also fill up as many other containers that I have such as a few old bins. Then as the leaves reduce in volume I can start to condense it all down into one container. So I might start with 8 containers and bins but end up with just 1 full of leafmould.
Like I said it might take a year or even 2 to fully rot down so we eed to be patent. That is because autumn leaves rot down by the slow cool action of fungi whereas in a compost bin we usethe quicker acting bacterial breakdown.
we can tell what stage its at by crumbling in our hand if its young leafmould itll be easy to crumble in our hands but still have a leaf look to it. This is usable in this state we could use it as a mulch over bare soil in the winter to protect the soil against rain washing the nutrients out the soil. We could also use it as a summer mulch under trees or bushes or around our vegetables which will help suppress weeds and conserve moisture in the soil.
But if we leave it a little longer we get well rotted leafmould and this could take 2 years at least. This now will be a dark brown crumbly material with no real sign it was once leaves. This can be used as a seed sowing mix by sieving the leafmould through a fine sieve and use that sieved material as seed sowing compost. Leafmould is actually very low in nutrients which makes it ideal for use as seeds sowing compost.
If we mix equal parts of leafmould, loam or soil and sharp sand we have a home made potting mix for our potted plants but we will have saved some money by doing this.
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