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Another job on my ‘Autumn to do’ list was spreading my leaf mould. I checked it the other day and it looked ready.

I don’t have enough leaves in the garden so I collect extra from the local area stuffing it into old compost bags and bringing it home. Leaves take longer to rot down than other forms of green waste. You can put a small amount into your compost heap but it’s best to compost them separately. If you leave it for a year it should have broken down enough to be used as a mulch on the garden borders. If you leave it for longer it will break down into a really fine consistency that can be used in potting compost mixes.

I’ve tried several types of container over the last few years. The first year I tried black bin liners. I just stuffed the leaves inside, punctured the bag with a fork to allow air into the leaves and left them behind the shed. I found that they would dry out very quickly and they decompose best when kept moist. I also didn’t like the idea of using the bin liners. They were in quite a state by the time the leaf mould was ready for use, covered in mud and just quite grotty but I didn’t want to use new bags every Autumn, not very environmentally friendly.

So the second year I bought some of the biodegradable leaf sacks. Again these dried out quickly but it was easier to keep them moist by just putting the hose on them. Unfortunately they degraded too quickly, so by the Spring the sack were already falling apart but the leaves needed another 6 months before they would be ready. By the time I came to use the leaf mould there were patches of the sack left but nothing holding the leaves in place.

So last year I bought 2 small recycled plastic dustbins from B&Q and drilled a few holes in the base and around the lower half of the bin and then filled these up. They’ve worked much better. They do take up a bit more space but it’s much easier to get a fork in and turn the leaves and they don’t dry out as quickly. It’s also simpler to just put the hose into the bin to add some moisture but best of all I don’t need to buy any sort of sack each Autumn.

I’m using my leaf mould as a soil conditioner for my shady border and also as a sort of duvet on a couple of plants that I think might suffer from the cold. I don’t have the space to dig them up and overwinter them so I’m hoping a thick mulch will give them enough protection over winter. I’m always amazed when I’m tidying up in Spring and removing debris from the soil, that just a few leaves and bits of dead plant has been enough to protect little creatures such as ladybirds from temperatures as low as minus 17. So hopefully it will offer the same protection for my plants.