How to recycle your autumn leaves

Our famed avenues offer summer shade and, in autumn, the raw ingredients for an easy-to-make garden improver. Use your fallen leaves to make leaf mould – a rich substance that can be used as mulch, makes an ideal base for home-made potting or seed-raising mix, and can be used to improve soil throughout the garden.

Leaf mould is simply fallen leaves that have been left to slowly rot down over time.

How to make it

  • Use a bag – simply fill large plastic bags with leaves, tie them up, punch a few holes in them and place the bags in a shady spot for 6 to 12 months.
  • Fill a tarpaulin – make a large leaf-filled roll, and put it aside in some shade.
  • Make a leaf cage – place a circle of chicken wire in a shady area of the garden, and pack in as many leaves as you can. The leaves must be kept moist while decomposing, so you might like to line the cage first with cardboard. When it’s full, cover the cage with hessian or a tarpaulin and leave it to work its magic for around 6 to 8 months.

Speeding up the process

  • Smaller pieces will decompose quicker, so run over the leaves with a lawn mower or put them through a mulcher before bagging or piling.
  • Turn or fork the pile every few weeks, or if using a bag, turn it over or give it a shake.
  • Keep your leaves moist throughout – check them occasionally for moisture, especially if the weather has been hot and dry, and add water if necessary.
  • Add some organic fertiliser to the pile.
A neighbourhood street with falling autumn leaves