If you spend a lot of November sweeping up leaves and putting them in your garden waste bin then you are missing out on the best soil conditioner you can get your hands on and what’s more it is free. So last year I made a leafmould cage at a client’s garden and this year it was time to see what the harvest was looking like and I wasn’t disappointed.
Unlike a compost, leafmould is the result of leaves being broken down by fungi so you don’t need to turn a pile of leafmould nor do you need to worry about getting it hot. As the leaves are typically gathered in November and usually from your lawn then apart from the odd twig there is usually very little by way of weed seeds. This means that next year you can look forward to a ready supply of high quality organic matter which can be used in various ways around the garden.
Now there are various ways you can make leafmould but my preferred way is just to find a suitable spot, put 4 posts in the ground and then wrap chicken wire and hey presto you have a leafmould cage. All you need to do is fill it up with leaves and then leave it to its own devices until the same time next year – what can be simpler than that?
Below is the leafmould cage I made for the client and filled using this years leaves. It is a little under 1m x 2m and the sheet of wood on the righthand side just makes it easier to empty the cage once the leafmould is ready.
I prefer using a cage like this because the air can get in all around and it is open so it can be kept damp by the rain. With a cage you are really looking to get a nice deep layer of leaves so I try to keep the footprint as small as possible to accommodate all the leaves I will be gathering.
So what does the resulting leafmould look like… well below is what I harvested this year from last years leaves – lovely stuff!
Depending on the type of leaves you are gathering it may take a couple of years for the leaves to fully break down but I have found using a deep pile in cage delivers results in a year. Either way, after a year I empty the cage so I can fill it again and if I think the leafmould needs a bit longer, I would leave it in a bulk bag until ready.
For more information on leafmould, try the following: