Last chance to collect leaves for next year’s leaf mould! This is the new leaf mould bin on the plot, made from some wire grids that were wombled and passed onto me by the previous boatman on the adjacent canal side mooring.
The garlic leaves are well on their way up now, and the sea beet is finally growing leafy. It clearly appreciates the deeper soil that it gets here, compared with the shallow bed it was in at home in the garden.
The salad leaves are growing well underneath their simple protection of a fleecy blanket held down with stones. There is also chickweed growing in the gaps between the planks, which I love because it adds visual interest and it is also edible.
I’ve been trying to make leaf mould for years. I used to shove the leaves into black plastic sacks and punch holes in the bags. A year or two later, I opened the bag hopefully, and found … leaves. Only one of my leaf bags actually turned into leaf mould. This was disappointing, because the one thing that we have literally bags of is leaves.
Our garden sits beneath a retaining wall, and on top of that are mature trees:
Mature beech trees above back garden
So we have a plentiful soil improvement resource right on our back doorstep. Where the leaves fall on the beds, I let them be. Perfect mulch, nature’s own way. Where they fall on the ‘path’ at the back, they are also allowed to stay. They break down slowly, providing a walking surface over the winter, just like a woodland path. The leaves on the lawn and on the paving get swept into piles and then sucked and munched with the leaf vacuum. Sweeping first means the vacuuming takes no time, and uses less electricity. Munched leaves break down much more easily, especially as our leaves are mostly beech which breaks down very slowly.
The leaf mould breakthrough came when we made a proper bin (in the middle-front of the top picture). It is ridiculously simple – just some wire mesh in a circle, held up by garden canes and fastened with wire. We built this bin a year or two ago, and this year we dug out three good-sized compost bags of lovely crumbly leaf mould. (I never throw away a compost bag. You would not believe how many compost bags I have.) Having emptied the bin, I started filling it again.
Leaf mould makes a great peat substitute for homemade compost, which I’ve been making for the first time this year. I’ll write about this some other time. I’ll also write about my other use for leaves in my third (yes, third) black dalek compost bin. My brilliant neighbours also deposit bags of their leaves over the fence for me, and I am taking it as a personal challenge to use all the leaves from both gardens. Leaf no waste.