While it is actually the first month of winter (boo!) the majority of deciduous trees around us have still yet to lose all their leaves, which means two things: Mess and the opportunity to make leaf mould.
Sounds Gross. What is Leaf Mould?
It’s basically the term used for rotted down autumn leaves.
The gardening nerd in me knows that this stuff is beeeyootiful for your garden – it can be used as a soil conditioner (to improve the overall health of your soil) or as a gentle, rich mulch to help retain water and keep weeds at bay, and gardeners often refer to it as “black gold”.
It’s perfect for ferns and rainforest plants in particular, but will help enrich any soil in your garden by improving the water retention and overall health of the garden.
How do I Make Leaf Mould?
Just rake up all your fallen leaves and give them a spray with the garden hose. You want them to be fairly wet, to help speed up the decomposition. Then fill some heavy-duty black plastic bin bags with your leaves, adding a handful of blood and bone every 30cm or so (this appears to be optional, but I trust the word of Gardening Australia!) Close your bags up, poke some holes in it with a garden fork and leave in a sheltered place, preferably on soil/grass, for at least a year.
So, this isn’t an activity for those who are after instant gratification, but it is worthwhile. If nothing else, it gets you outside in the chilly winter air for a while, and gives you something for your garden for basically no cost.
How do I Know When it’s Ready?
It will be crumbly and sweet-smelling, and resemble the look of regular compost. (Just a side note: you can’t add many autumn leaves to your regular compost bin, as they don’t easily break down in those conditions. Too many and it will slow your bin down.)
Sounds Good. Any Tips?
If you want the process to go a little quicker, try dumping all your leaves on the lawn and mowing over them. This will break them up, meaning they’ll break down quicker. Also, there are special leaf mould compost bins available, which compress the leaves, apparently speeding the process up some more, so perhaps try keeping a weight of some sort on top of your pile. Maybe some timber or corrugated iron would do the trick.
Have you made leaf mould before? I’ve just applied last year’s haul to our garden and could not believe how many worms were in the bags when I broke it open. Such rich, crumbly stuff!