My list of plants for our new garden grows longer each week, the latest plant I’m lusting after is a compact climbing rose, an old fashioned type and it must have scent. But I know that the thing I have to do before anything is planted is improve the soil.
The easiest ways to do this is to make leafmould and spread it over the soil as a thick mulch, worms drag it down into the soil. Healthy soil makes for healthy plants which makes life easier if you garden organically.
Leafmould isn’t high in nutrients, but it improves the structure of the soil no end, breaking down clay soil and knitting together thin, sandy soil. It’s a perfect way to use all the leaves that are littering the garden, recycling them into a free gift for your garden.
The process couldn’t be simpler, I store the collected leaves in those big, strong compost bags, first turning them inside-out to hide the garish colours. The bags need holes in the base for drainage, then they’re loosely tied at the top and stashed out of the way around the garden.
If you have a big garden, make a big container, ideally 2m wide x 1 metre tall, from chicken wire fixed to wooden corner stakes, some kind of lid will keep leaves in place and help to speed up the process.
Leaves on a lawn can be collected using a mower, set the blades high to shred them and they’ll rot down more quickly. A few grass clippings are also included adding some nutrients to the mix.
Oak, beech and hornbeam make the best leafmould, thicker leaves like sycamore, walnut and chestnut take longer to rot down, but can be given the mower treatment to shred them and hurry things along.
The leaves need to be kept moist, so check them every few weeks. They take at least a year to rot down, but if it’s done ever year there’s a constant supply. The mass of leaves reduces to a third of the original bulk, so stash away plenty of bags and have at least 2 wire containers.
Happy gardening, Jill
all photos: Jill Anderson.