Leaf mould is one of the simplest things to create yet its source, dead leaves, are probably one of the most wasted sources of lasting humus. Come the autumn time I’m horrified to see people burning leaves, when I would without hesitation, happily take them all. In fact I might even venture to offer to clear them up!
A very quick, simple, cheap and ultimately effective way to compost down the leaves is by creating a leaf mould bin in a corner of the garden. It costs around £7 if you need to buy in the materials and will take less than an hour to make.
Leaf moulding is a way of creating excellent soil enhancer or mulch and is the one of the best ways of improving your soil structure, be it sandy soil or clay. Left to their own devices leaves will break down over a period of a couple of years however by heaping them in a bin (and adding some ‘household activator’ – read tiddling on them) you can accelerate the breakdown to around a year. This method was said to be pioneered by Dr Peggy Ellis of the HDRA and to some is known as a ‘Peggy Pile’.
When collecting the leaves don’t worry about mixing up leaves from different trees, they will all rot down in the end, although where possible avoid those from holly trees, in my experience they take much longer to rot, and come the following autumn when you want to use the resulting ‘compost’ you’ll find their spiky leaves will still provide an unwelcome jab to the ungloved hand.
Once the bin is full put a bit of old carpet over the top just to weigh it down. The pile will shrink over the year as the leaves rot down, but in the end you will be left a valuable dollop of material which will benefit your garden no end.