Cleaning up fallen leaves is the burden of many a gardener. Just as you have finished, the leaves start to fall again! It can feel like trying to hold back the tide. Did you know you can make incredible leaf mould compost from fallen leaves to enrich your garden? This how-to guide will show you a super easy way to make your own free leaf mould compost!

I don’t know of any gardener than likes cleaning up leaves, but come the Autumn months it is something that most gardeners need to tolerate. Leaf mould compost is an excellent way to rid yourself of wet slimy leaves and enrich your garden with a nutrient-rich compost. It costs virtually nothing and, if you don’t mind waiting around 12 months, then you have a perfect compost to mulch our garden with.

There are two methods to make leaf mould compost

  1. Traditional way – for large amounts of leaves (2 years +)
  2. Quick bin liner method – Smaller amounts of leaves (12 months)

The traditional way of making leaf mould involves creating bins of at least 1m x 1m in diameter. These bins are then lined with chicken wire to allow air flow and to help the leaves break down. You can see an example of two leaf mould bins below. The disadvantage is that it takes a large amount of space and, more often than not, a sudden gust of wind can suddenly whip out most of your leaves, taking you back to square one of having to clean them up again!

leaf composting binsI find that this method is the best when trying to dispose of large amounts of leaves. To avoid the issue of the wind disturbing them, I find a plastic sheet on top with a brick usually does the trick. The above bins are of quite a crude construction method I prefer to use pallets for compost bins which are sturdier and have greater longevity. My compost bin guide below shows you a quick method of making large bins for leaf mould.

How to make leaf mould quickly

There is a far easier way which involves using bin liners to make leaf mould, especially if new to leaf mould. This takes about half the time of the traditional method and guarantees you amazing leaf mould compost in about 12 months. It’s also great for those with space restrictions and those who can’t build permanent compost bins. It allows you to make leaf mould and experience its benefits before committing to building custom permanent leaf mould compost bins.

Equipment to make leaf mould

  • Bin liner(s)
  • Recently fallen leaves
  • Garden Shredder (if you’re really in a rush for the good stuff!)
  • Scissors
  • Somewhere out of direct sunlight to store the bags of leaves.

1. Fill a bin liner 2/3 full of leaves. I recommend deciduous leaves as these break down really quickly. Evergreen or waxy leaves can take a long time to decompose and may need shredding. To speed up the process a shredder will help cut the leaves into smaller particles expediating the process significantly!

leaves in a bag

2. Tie the bin liner up with a double knot.

tying a bin bag

3. Using the scissors puncture some air holes around the side and the bottom of the bag. This allows any excess moisture to escape and stops the leaves simply rotting into a foul soup.

piercing a bin liner

4. Store the bag(s) somewhere out of direct sunlight. Ideal places are behind sheds or slightly shady spaces. Don’t rest them against buildings as moisture build-up could cause damp.

5. Forget about the bags for around 12 months.

6. After 12 months check the bag, if the contents are a dark brown rich colour, then the mould is ready. If still a bit slimy or wet then leave for an additional month and recheck.

Leaf mould is an excellent mulch which can help improve your soil condition and protect plants from water stress during periods of high temperatures during the summer months. Leaf mould is incredible for seedlings and propagating plants. As it has such a fine crumb structure its great for seedlings to root in and is super free draining. If you are wondering how best to mulch and what the benefits are, why not read my guide on how to mulch here.

Happy composting!

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