As Autumn takes its grip on the garden and the leaves start to fall, it is time to make leafmould.
As the name suggests, leafmould consists of decomposed leaves from broad leaf trees such as oak, beech or hornbeam. It has a low nutrient level but is one of the best soil conditioners you can get. Furthermore, its totally free and all that you need is patience.
If you have acid-loving plants such as Acers or Rhododendrons, then you can use pine needles and conifer leaves instead. The process is the same for both broad leaf and coniferous variants.
The obvious first step is collect the leaves. You can either use a rake, a leaf vacuum or a lawn mower which will also shred and chop them. Place the leaves in a plastic bin bag, pierce the bag several times with a garden fork and give them a watering if they are dry. Tie the top of the bag, place the bag(s) in a quiet place such as behind the shed and leave them for two years. You did read that correctly, I did say you need patience.
Alternatively, you can make a wire compost bin frame from chicken wire. Support it with bamboo canes and pile your leaves inside to decay. This method also takes approximately two years to make a good leadmould. It may be necessary to turn the heap regularly to help the aerate the leaves and speed up the decay process.
You may need to water the leaves during warm weather using a watering can. This will help to break down the leaves and speed up the breakdown process.
Leafmould is a great soil additive and mulch throughout the garden and is equally useful as part of your bonsai soil mix. Adding leafmould to woodland tree varieties will add natural bacteria that will aid the tree to establish. It is also great to use as seed-sowing compost or to use as part of your potting mix for accent plantings and potted plants alike.