If your garden looks anything like mine at this time of year you will be looking out over a golden brown lawnscape and no – not because it has been scorched by the sun (does anyone still remember the tropical summer we had!?) but because it is covered in crisp golden beach leaves, soggy yellow sycamore leaves and crunchy brown horse chestnut (conker) leaves.
To many people the autumn or as our cousins over the pond aptly call it “fall” (makes more sense than calling trousers “pants” 🙂 ) bring the extra unwanted work in the garden gathering a disposing of the unwanted fallen leaves. I would like to show you how to view the leaf fall and all the work it entails in a more positive light. These leaves are a source of nutrients which naturally help to feed carbon and nitrogen back into their parent trees as they break down and decay into the soil over the trees roots. You may say that is all very nice in the forests but what about my garden? The fallen leaves just make it look like a mess!!
Well nowadays you can easily gather up the leaves without tiring yourself out raking and sweeping like we used to – buy yourself a leaf blower – with the advances in Lithium Ion technology over the past few years you can get a powerful, lightweight and relatively quiet leaf blower for less than £200. A gardener friend of mine told me he remembers writing home to his parents from New York thirty seven years ago describing his first sighting of a leaf blower and how lazy it was!!
Once you’ve blown your leaves into a pile, you have a choice – either you can make “leaf mould” or you can compost the leaves.
Leaf mould makes a fantastic mulch for keeping your plants protected over the winter and retaining water in the summer. To make leaf mould for mulch make sure your leaves are wet (this helps speed up decay) and place them into black bin bags, pierce a few holes in the bags to allow air to get in and store them out of the way untill early summer. If you want to make pure leaf mould compost suitable for seed sowing you should shred the leaves and then you may need to leave them to completely break down for up to 2 years.
Fallen leaves are an excellent source of carbon rich “brown” matter for your compost heap and will help counterbalance the nitrogen rich greens such as grass clippings. Softer leaves such as ash, fruit tree leaves, poplar and willow will break down quickly and do not need shredding – if you are composting harder leaves such as beech, sycamore and horse chestnut then it is advisable to shred them before adding them to your compost heap.