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Composting Autumn Leaves

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Autumn leaves can be a chore to pick up, especially if you have a big garden or live in an area with a lot of leafy trees. But having so many leaves in your garden can have its upsides, particularly if you love gardening and plant your own vegetables or flowers. You can use the leaves to make a leaf mould, a compost that can also be used for potted plants.

If you have a compost heap

If you have a compost heap in the back of your garden, you can simply add the leaves to your heap. But keep in mind that too many leaves will make the compost slimy: store large quantities of leaves separately, by separating batches with wire mesh (such as chicken wire). Make sure you do not let the leaves dry out and add moisture when necessary. Turn the leaves occasionally to mix the dry leaves with the wet ones.

Use plastic bags

If you have a smaller garden or do not wish to have a compost heap, you can pack your leaves into black bin liners. Make sure the leaves are moist when you put them into the bags; an ideal time to take them up is after rain. Tie the bags to keep your leaves locked in but pierce the bags so the air can circulate.

You can also use biodegradable bags that will form the compost with the leaves, in which case you will need to store the bags out of the way. Wait for at least a few months for up to a year so that your leaves decompose into a rich leaf mould. Different leaves will take different times to break down. Oak, alder or hornbeam leaves will take longer than chestnut, beech or sycamore for example.

Leaf mould requires more time than compost but makes for a rich and crumbly mulch. Use it by spreading it around your plants, use it a soil improver or mix some with your potting compost.

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