A second life for all those marvellous leaves

Leaf compost is an excellent soil improver

A lot of people love autumn leaves when they’re still on the trees but once they’ve fallen, the rake or leaf blower comes out straightaway. That’s fine, but don’t throw the leaves away. You can make amazing leaf compost with them. 

What's happening in your autumn garden - Thejoyofplants.co.uk

Making leaf compost is easier than creating an ‘ordinary’ compost heap. All you need are a couple of plastic rubbish sacks, a spot where you can store them out of sight, and some leaves of course. Preferably rake them together after a rain shower, because the leaves need to be damp. Place as many leaves as possible in a rubbish sack, scatter some lime (compost accelerant or finely ground eggshells will also work) between the layers and press them down firmly. Empty the contents into a chicken wire basket to store the leaves. The weather will do the rest. After a year you will have amazingly nutritious home-made mulch. If you have more patience, it will turn into potting soil. 

Tip: Leaves from different trees and shrubs produce richer mulch than leaf compost from one type of leaf.

What's happening in your autumn garden - Thejoyofplants.co.uk

Good to know:

● Leaf compost does not contain the same level of nutrients as mixed compost but it’s still an excellent soil improver, particularly for plants that like a slightly acidic soil.

● Leaves from oak and beech trees don’t decay easily; it’s better to use the leaves from these trees as an insulating winter cover for frost-sensitive perennials. 

● The process goes faster if you chop the leaves up fine. That can be done in a shredder, but spreading them on the lawn and going over them with the lawnmower has the same effect. 

What you can do with leaf compost

If you have sandy soil in your garden, it helps to mix leaf compost through it to improve moisture retention. If you mix it into clay soil, it will make it more airy. Leaf compost as a mulch on borders and in large plant containers prevents weeds and protects the soil from drying out.