Guest post by Kevin Jameson
Hi. I’m Kevin Jameson, an allotment gardener for nearly 30 years together with my lovely wife Angela. I’ve been interested in gardening all my life thanks to my Mum. She’s 90 and is still as keen as ever. Once you have the bug it seldom leaves you.
We try to garden in a sustainable way using organic methods. Mostly with very good results and a steady supply of produce but as any seasoned gardener will say, you never stop learning. That’s part of the joy of it. I’m very pleased to have an opportunity to contribute to the blog and share some of our gardening experiences with you.
The Wonders Of Natural Leaf Mould
As winter sets in with frost, rain and the occasional gale, so the deciduous trees and bushes drop their leaves to cover the ground below.
For me, this annual event in Nature’s calendar means a late harvest time. A good chance for some exercise outdoors with the promise of a great reward for the garden.
I make leaf mould / mulch on a fairly big scale. Apart from the leaves we collect in the garden, our local park is full of beech and oak trees. Their leaves gather in deep drifts along fences near the main gate. I go along with a trailer and fill a few sacks full before the Council comes and sweeps them all up.
It’s well worth it believe me.
So What is Leaf Mould and What are the Benefits?
It’s a natural blend of composted fallen leaves that have slowly broken down to eventually becoming a light, soft, flaky dark brown material that looks similar to peat but is not as soggy when wet.
The fallen leaves break down in cool, moist conditions helped by fungal activity. Leaf mould also has a pleasant, sweet, damp woodland aroma.
Earthworms, our best healthy soil companions, find old leaves and leaf mould absolutely irresistible. They will steadily drag all of this natural and beneficial material underground. If you look under an old damp pile of leaves, contented earthworms are often to be found.
Most experienced gardeners will agree that leaf mould is one of the best natural soil improvers available. Use it as a soil surface mulch or add it to potting mixes for both indoor and outdoor plants.
Unlike commercially extracted peat, using leaf mould made by hand on a modest scale is a completely sustainable way of nurturing your garden and keeping it healthy.
A Simple Way to Make Your Own Lovely Leaf Mould
Three important things to keep in mind before starting:
1. It will take about two years to reach a finished product.
2. You’ll need space outdoors somewhere for your leaf sacks or containers. Preferably a shady spot away from direct sunlight.
3. The volume of leaves collected will reduce significantly as they slowly break down.
Also. It’s best and easiest to collect wet or damp leaves. Never dry and crispy. A springy lawn rake and waterproof gloves are very useful for this job.
For smaller quantities, collect the leaves into strong plastic sacks and push them firmly down into a solid mass. The sacks will be quite heavy with the wet leaves. Tie the top of the sack and pierce small holes in the sides and bottom.
If you’ve got lots of leaves and space available, a large plastic compost bin or a bulk bag are ideal. Again, stuff the leaves down inside to make a firm, dense mass.
Finish by covering the surface with a sheet of old plastic weighed down with something heavy, like bricks. This will help to keep the leafy contents compacted and moist which is essential.
Check the contents of your container occasionally. If there are signs of drying out at the edges, give the container a good soak with butt-collected rain water or a bucket of tap water that has been left to stand for 24 hours.
After 12 months or so, the leaves will have started to visibly crumble. At this point, I usually combine the contents of 2 containers into one as the volume will have reduced. This is not essential though.
The last stage is to sieve your leaf mould into a fine compost and it’s ready to use. I have a sieve made with old chicken wire mesh that works very well.
Caledonian Garden Waste Collection£25.00 – £130.00 inc VAT