Making Leaf Mould

There are a lot of trees in the Priory gardens.  Six very big oak trees, six big weeping willows, two large ash trees, nigh on twenty alder, half a dozen hornbeam and then various fruit trees, shrubs, hedges and  specimen trees.  In addition there are trees aplenty in the surrounding fields and on the driveway and many, many more along the northern border of the gardens: the river bank.

Part of the north lawn.

You can imagine then how much leaf falls, or is blown, into the garden. That’s right.  A lot.

Leaves blown into submission.

During the first autumn at the Priory, I raked up as many leaves as I could and wheel-barrowed them out to some chicken-wire leaf bins I had made near the driveway.  I did this day after day after day.  I became a grandmaster at leaf-raking.  A leaf-raking virtuoso.  A leaf-raking wunderkind.

Leaves raked into submission

The following year I was able to bring some heavy guns to bear on leaf-mould production.

Leaves mown into submission

For a start, I had the ride-on mower.  This not only swept up large swathes of leaf (while I inspected my fingernails and looked up at pretty clouds), it shredded them too, speeding up their breakdown.
My second big leaf-mould production aid was a powerful Stihl leaf blower.  I am now able to blow leaves out of the drainage ditches, off paths and beds and onto the lawns from where they can be either raked up or ‘mown-up’.  (I try and keep the leaves out of the ditches as I don’t want them being washed out into the ponds.  The latter are silted up enough).

The Stihl is so powerful, I have inadvertently lifted chunks of tarmac with it.

As I’ve written elsewhere, I currently use two of the Priory’s seven compost bins for leaf mould.  But I’m short on composting space and so yesterday I quickly had to make a chicken-wire leaf mould container.

Not a thing of great beauty but with the Devil snapping at my hindmost, I had to quickly get it built.

Easily made from four posts and a length of chicken wire, this temporary bin will hold a remarkable amount.  I will dismantle it in a few weeks when there is room once again in the compost bins.

I only have one available bin for leaf at the moment, while the bin on the right still holds last year’s.

You’ll have to take my word that this stuff is full of worms.  With the recent frosts they’ve dived for cover.  Run silent, run deep.  Each year, I buy in several cubic metres of mushroom compost, as a soil improver and mulch.  But, given that I have a full bin (five feet x eight feet x three feet) of compost and a full bin of leaf mould, I think this year I won’t need to. Maybe, for the first time, I will be self-sufficient in compost and ‘mould.    If that’s the case all that raking might just be worth it.

15 thoughts on “Making Leaf Mould

  1. Hey Nat, hmmm. Can't leave the leaves too long without raking because a) I get twitchy and b) they get blown into the ponds. So just have to rake, rake, rake. And yeah, does beat going to the gym except that er, I'm about to join a gym.


  2. Awesome! I'm also well adept at raking leaves. Amazing how a little technology speeds things up. That ride on looks like a dream. Personally during autumn I try to wait it out and have them all fall before I get to work as to only do it once. This year I was 3 days too early and right after raking the majority of the lawn, a storm blew in and made me do it all over again. Of course, this meditation does beat going to the gym,


  3. You do, I'm afraid, have to do leaf collection on a windless day Jason. It's the first law. I like the idea that you're carrying on a family woodland tradition. Make sure you pass it on.



  4. I get very frustrated with leaves, the pesky things never fall in an orderly fashion and no sooner have you piled them up than a gust of wind comes along and scatters them all over the place!
    Leaf mould is lovely stuff mind you so it is worth the effort. I like to pop over the road too and into the woods where I gather it up from under the old oaks; my grandfather used to do the same thing and it feels good to follow in his footsteps.


  5. Disappointed Janet that you would want to scuff through all my hard work. For shame! I would never, ever want to do that (cough).


  6. I'm clearly not a nice person, one glance at the photo of all the neatly piled leaves and I want to scuff through them and spread them all out again… I have a leaf blower that also sucks, and chops, making it all a lot easier to gather leaves from the gravel. But I am so envious of the ride-on mower. Not that there is room in my current garden. A just reward for having done it all by hand in your first year.


  7. It is a chore, Elaine and I do get a little fixated about gathering every last possible leaf so as to make as much mould as possible. Keeps me from hanging around bus shelters drinking cider, I suppose (at least on week days).

    A cunning plan, eh Sara? How intriguing …

    Oh, I think the priory would be alright Faisal. I suspect it might be me that would fall apart were I ever to leave.

    Go to it Petra! And thanks so much for that HTML spacing tip. Worked a treat.

    Ha! You're building up a fine reputation, WW. She probably thinks you're under a community service order!

    The blower is noisy, Janet but invaluable for the scale of leaf clearance I have to do. The drive (several hundred metres long) has to be kept clear – couldn't do that with a broom or rake! I generally play loud-pop-tunes in my earphones to drown out the noise!

    Hi Stacy, when the mushroom compost is delivered by tipper truck the smell is eye watering. Least my mould smells nice. As to spelling I think you can spell it with or without the u. I prefer without but thought I'd go with convention. As an aside, I'm also struggling with while/whilst. I read online that the latter is a British affectation so I have tended to drop it. But I do rather miss it!

    Hi Helen, I've learnt that just leaving the leaves on the lawns isn't an option. The grass simply dies beneath them. I do blow a lot of leaf under the beech and yew hedging to act as a mulch (frankly there's too much for me to collect and harvest it all).



  8. My leaf situation is but a mere shadow of yours. I have toyed with making leaf mould in the past but this year my approach is to shove them under various shrubs and hedges as a mulch, especially reasonably newly planted plants. I dont like leaving leaves on the lawn nor on the border around bulbs and perennials as I think the leaves just provide a habitat for slugs etc


  9. Those are some of the most submissive leaves I have ever seen, Dave. You're a tough taskmaster! Since we have such a dry climate I just let my leaves lie where they fall–no worries about crown rot or slugs or other general yuckiness, and they won't decompose any faster in a bin than they do on the ground. (I'm also lazier than you are.) Your leaf mould (do we spell that w/ a u here? I can't remember now) looks much richer than any mushroom compost I've ever seen–definitely worth the effort, I'd think.


  10. I sweep a lot of our leaves straight onto the borders and only gather the ones on that fall on the veg garden. But this year there are hardly any so I think I'm going to have to follow Welly Woman's example….
    Lovely looking leaf mould, Dave, worth all that hard work worth all these noisy gadgets….


  11. Just been out this morning, before it started to rain, collecting leaves from around the village. Got some strange looks and one woman was under the impression I was just tidying up. Not sure why I would choose to tidy up a large grassy area in the middle of the village. When I explained it was for leaf mould for my garden she still looked at me as if I were bonkers. Oh well it will be worth it.


  12. Looks amazing. All our leaves blow straight out of the garden down the hill, so no mulch for us. Although my husband has a plan… so you may see leaf mulch at hillwards yet.
    Ours will involve manual work though, no production aids. Still, all worthwhile in the end, right?


  13. What a chore it must be for you – it's bad enough in a small garden – still, it keeps you out of mischief and is definitely worth it in the end.


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