At this time of year I get nothing short of obsessed by leaves. And I don’t mean just the lovely autumn colours – and this is a particularly lovely autumn, with oranges, reds, yellows and golds gleaming in the sunshine.
Leaves are my no.l free resource in the garden, and I’m constantly amazed how many people still pile ’em up and burn ’em. Leafmould might take a couple of years to rot down – but all the best things come to those who wait, and when you unwrap that old leafmould bin that’s been sitting in the corner of your garden doing nothing for I don’t know how long, you remember why you did it.
I’ve been doing just that this week in my garden, with a bin I’ve had stewing now since 2005, and my goodness it’s beautiful stuff. Dark, crumbly, and smelling of the forest floor.
Leafmould is a low-nutrient organic matter, which means you can safely use it at this time of year without worrying about stimulating plants into new growth just as the frosts arrive. You can mix it in with compost and sand to make a home-made potting mix, but I find that all a bit fiddly (even though it does save lots of money). I prefer just to use leafmould as an autumn mulch, tucking in my plants for the winter and keeping any stray annual weeds at bay (yes they do keep germinating even through the coldest months of the year). As well as looking great, it’ll be pulled down into the soil by the worms and bulk out my sandy loam – so it can hold in moisture more efficiently next summer, too. And people burn this stuff?!