I’ve had a couple of tries making leafmould in black plastic bags, but with little success. They just seem to become dried out leaves, so I thought I would read up on, and try and do it properly.
It’s November 2018, and there are loads of trees around the edge of the allotment site that have dropped their leaves. So I just pootled around for an hour or so, raking them into big piles, and taking them by the wheelbarrow-full to my plot. Look at the colour of these beauties!
I built a huge pile – it was about 6ft in diameter and 4ft high. I tried to get a mix of leaves from different types of tree, and some were definitely wetter than others.
I was going to build myself a leafmould cage, but for only a little bit more than the raw materials, I picked up this one from Primrose. It’s 90cmx90cmx90cm, which apparently makes it 792 litres volume. It was a doddle to put together, with pre-drilled holes for 3 screws on each corner join.
I then put it in place down the side of the shed, and started to fill it up. I picked up the leaves using this handy set which I bought from the Wisley plant shop. It’s a bit like a dustpan and brush, but with a rake instead of a brush. You can pick up loads – much more than if you are using your hands. It’s made by Burgon and Ball, who I have to confess I am a huge fan of – their stuff is always great quality (and no, this isn’t a sponsored post!)
I scooped the leaves into a couple of large garden bags, and dumped them in the cage – which was a few metres from the pile of leaves – bad planning on my part – should have put the pile next to where I was going to put the cage!
After each bagful, I gave the leaves a good strim to break them up (apparently it helps them to compost quicker if you do that), and then soaked them with water. I used the dirty water from the metal bath/container thingy that sits under the tap at the allotment. Not sure if it will help speed things up, but I don’t suppose it will do any harm.
This is how the massive pile compacted down, just with strimming and water.
And you can see they have compacted again when I pushed them down a little to put the cardoboard on top. I plan to top it up with more leaves when I get chance, but I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve got so far. Not bad for a couple of hours work.
Now I just have to keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t dry out, and I may add some coffee grounds, as I hear that also helps.
Would love to hear your top leafmould tips…
Two weeks later update – I acquired a load of coffee grounds from Starbucks, and thought I would add them and top up the cage at the same time.
Interesting to see how much it had gone down just in two weeks. We’ve had a lot of rain, so they are nice and damp.
And here it is nice and full again – I added four barrowloads to get it up to this point.
Let’s see how it gets on with the coffee added. I’m also curious to know how heat has an impact as apparently it’s a fungal breakdown that happens to the leaves, and I would have thought that heat would help. I’m considering putting a layer of bubble wrap around it for the winter (if I have any spare from doing the greenhouse).
Mid-December update. Only a month or so after first filling the bin, and then topping it up again a few weeks later, this is what it looks like. It’s like the amazing disappearing stack!
My Sister has given me three of these lovely big sacks – all at least half filled with wet, and pretty compacted leaves.
So I added them to the bin – I forgot my strimmer, so they’ve gone in whole. Nice and full again!
Update – 1st September 2019
Look how much they have shrunk down
I was a bit disappointed as it looked like it was still whole leaves. BUT when I scraped the surface look what I found
Black gold! And all I did was collect and strim the leaves, add some coffee grounds, and occasionally chuck a bucket of water over them if I thought they were a bit dry.
I am beyond excited, and will definitely use this lot in the raised beds, and refill the cage when the leaves fall this year.