Autumn, a beautiful time of year, the crisp wind and the colourful leaves on the ground make for some beautiful scenes across the land. As we wave goodbye to the summer sun and say hello to the shortened days and woolly jumpers, it is time to start thinking about putting your garden to bed for the winter and preparing for the long months ahead.
Leaves on the ground may be beautiful to look at but it can be bad for your lawn if you leave them lying over the winter, so it’s very important to rake them up when you can. The problem is where do you put them after you’ve rounded them up? Well, you recycle it all by composting them of course.
Leaf-mold or organic mulch as it is sometimes called, is perfect for spreading across your flower beds in early spring, discouraging weeds, retaining moisture and protecting the soil from the heavy rain and strong summer heat. It is made from the leaves you round each autumn. While not high in nutrient content, leaf mold is an excellent soil conditioner. Mixed in to poor soil, it improves texture whilst creating air pockets giving roots more space to penetrate the soil. This is nature’s way of recycling and is exactly what happens in the rainforests and woods across the world naturally, so it is tried and tested if you think of it in that way
To create leaf-mold all you need to do it pile the leaves and fresh grass cuttings from your garden into a corner or if you want to keep it all together and out of the wind, a wire container will do. The grass cuttings will aid the process but you can break down the leaves by shredding them first if you wish to help it further but it isn’t necessary. Make sure you DON’T compress the pile though, as it needs the airflow and the damp weather to aid the decomposition too. As the winter goes on, the pile will shrink as it decomposes. Now just leave it alone until spring. It can take up to two years to make a fully decomposed leaf-mold but it really depends on the weather conditions and in good old rainy Blighty, it’s not got much choice but to be damp really.
When spring comes the leaf-mold will hopefully be ready for you to spread, although the centre of the pile will be more decomposed than the outer layer, so remember to mix it together as you transfer it to your wheelbarrow and then flower beds. It is reported by gardeners to smell like an ancient woodland, which makes me think of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and summer evening strolls. Spread it evenly around the roots of your plants and across the flower beds. But remember that leaf-mold gradually breaks down on the soil during the heat of summer, so make sure you keep enough, to re-spread it again when it gets thin.
Repeat every autumn and the recycling continues and your soil and flowers will love you forever.
Photo Credit: www.cheetahsinmyshoes.com