Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Leaf mould

In my garden I have four trees, one of which is a Bronze Maple. I planted this as a six-foot sapling in 1992, and it has grown into a pretty substantial tree. I would say it is about 25 feet tall now. Each year it dumps a huge quantity of leaves onto the floor of the garden. I collect these leaves and put them into a compost bin where they slowly decompose into "leaf mould". If you want the leaves to break down completely, this process will take two years. At the end of it you will have a dark crumbly, fairly dry, material not too dissimilar in appearance to home-made compost. You can use it as a soil-conditioner (especially good for lightening-up heavy soils), or as a mulch for suppressing weeds and conserving moisture. What you can't do though is use it as a substitute for compost, because it is not very rich in nutrients.

I decided recently to use up the leaf-mould I started in the Autumn of 2008, mainly because I need the space in my bin for this year's leaves.  I lifted off the plastic compost bin vertically, and this is what was revealed:

The leaf-mould just after removing the compost bin

The 2008 season's leaves looked almost like commercial compost - dark, crumb-like and completely odourless, whereas the 2009 leaves were still in fairly large pieces. Significantly there were no worms in it. If this had been compost, it would have been teeming with worms. Why would a worm want to eat dry old maple leaves, when there are juicy vegetable peelings to be had in the next compost bin???

The outer surfaces were pretty dry

I spent the next half-hour or so forking batches of the stuff into a trug-tub and distributing it around my flower borders.

The best of the "2008 vintage"

So now I'm back to square one, ready to cope with this year's leaves.


  1. Hi Mark, your leaf mould looks great (kinda strange saying that!). I came across a blog that mentions both our sites, maybe you are aware of it? I happened across it. Not really sure what it's about but your blog is mentioned at the bottom of the page. The link is:

  2. Kelli; I've sent you a Friend invite on Facebook... Interested? We could communicate directly that way. I have a big Facebook album called Mark's Garden, on which I showcase to family and friends a lot more photos than I can ever put on my blog...


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