It’s Leaf Mould Season!
Fiery scarlet and orange berries are beginning to be visible through the leaves on the bushes lining the roads. The leaves on the chestnut trees are beginning to turn brown and there is a distinct nip in the air in the evenings now. It’s almost Autumn, or Fall, or whatever you call it in your part of the world. Whatever, it is time to be considering how this will affect our compost and how we can take advantage of what nature has to offer at this time of the year.
The most obvious offering , of course are the leaves, that in countries with lots of deciduous trees will soon be carpeting the ground. They will provide loads of fun for the children wading through them or just kicking them around, while they ‘help’ to rake them up, perhaps under duress or in answer to blatant bribery on the part of their gardening parent. For the gardener, however, they are a chore to be dealt with as quickly as possible before they become wet and slippery under-foot -a menace to the unwary or the careless. (Hushhh…. if you find them fun, too!)
So – what to do with them? From my perspective, there is not really any question. Mostly, they will be turned into leaf-mould for mulching. The dark, crumbly soil-like substance which is the end-product of decayed leaves is also known as humus and is the foundation of compost.
The remainder will be used in my general compost pile as part of the carbon requirement needed to balance out the nitrogen content. These leaves will go a good way to help bulk out my need for raw materials to keep my composting on track, so they will be very welcome here.
The secret of success when making leaf mould, is to really shred the leaves as finely as possible. If you have a lawn mower, a good way to do this is to just mow over them until they are well chopped up as small as you can get them. (There are also commercial leaf-shredders available, but if you are a tiny garden person as I am about to become, probably this is not a necessary expense.) This shredding speeds up the composting process and anything you spread over your garden now, will be well broken down by spring. If you do not shred them, you will find that they will not rot quickly and they will deplete the soil of the nitrogen that your plants need to thrive.
Leaf mould, as opposed to what we generally call “compost” is a soil amendment. It does not provide much in the way of nutrients, but rather, by improving the soil structure, it enhances the soil’s ability to retain moisture. It protects the roots of the plants it is allied with and as a bonus, earth-worms love it. As a mulch, it is top-drawer!
Should you have more leaves than you can cope with at one time, consider filling plastic garden bags with your excess supply, sprinkle with water and tie tightly. Make some holes in the bags if you do not want anaerobic composting and stack them in a corner, out of the way.
You could also use a bin – again fill with leaves, sprinkle with water to keep moist and just let them rot.
Do not forget, the smaller you shred your leaves, the quicker they will rot down.