It’s that time of year and the gardener’s gold must be gathered in. And so whenever I go up to the allotment, taking stuff for the compost bins, I then head up the lane to the woods behind the plots. Until recently the fallen leaves have been rain-sodden, but with a few rainless days they’ve dried off a bit and a bag full no longer weighs a tonne. Ideally too, the leaves should have the mower run over them before storing. This speeds up decomposition. You can also add grass mowings and comfrey leaves.
But whatever you do with them, they do take a long time to make proper leaf mould for seed sowing purposes – 2- 3 years probably. On the other hand if you only want compost for mulching winter beds, then they are good to go in less than 12 months. I stored mine in rolls of fence wire, pegged to the ground to make small silos. This year I’ve also bought some jute leaf sacks. The jute will eventually rot and be composted, but in the meantime the leaf sacks can be stored in shed and polytunnel.
No one else at the allotment gathers leaves, although when I mention the subject they all agree it’s a good idea. Then after a pause they usually say ‘ah, but they take so long to rot down.’ To which my first and last riposte is, well the sooner you start collecting them, the sooner this ceases to be an issue. And yes, I can see it might seem a touch eccentric to go scrabbling round in the woods but hey, last year’s leaf compost has now made a nice thick mulch for the strawberries, raspberries and young asparagus plants. So thank you trees – oak, beech, field maple, sycamore and bird cherry – and never fear, this year I’m still leaving you plenty of leaves for your own personal use.