[Music] Fallen leaves are in plentiful supply at
this time of year and they’re one of the best sources of
organic matter for gardeners. We’ll show you 7 ways to make use of the
season’s most abundant crop. Leafmold is gardeners’ gold. It’s what’s left when leaves have rotted down after a year or two, and can be used in many ways in the
garden. It is low enough nutrients so as not to scald tender seedlings but with just the right quantities to
dramatically improve soil structure and boost its water retention. Make leaf
mold by creating a wire mesh bin out of 4 sturdy upright posts wrapped in
chicken wire and secured in place Simply heap your
leaves into it and leave them for a year or two. An even easier method is to fill
ordinary plastic sacks about three-quarters full, tie the top securely, and puncture holes into the bottom and sides to allow its contents to breathe. Place the bags out to the way and forget
about them for a year or two. Great compost is made by getting an even
mix of browns and greens, and fallen leaves are an excellent
source of carbon-rich browns. Add them in layers, alternating with your
usual sources of nitrogen-rich greens and leave for a season. Turn the pile
occasionally to aerate it if required. If you use hot composting methods, just add a small amount of leaves and try to shred them and mix them in thoroughly first, as they don’t break down as quickly as the other
ingredients. Shred leaves to make an attractive
organic mulch which can be used throughout your
garden and containers. Just add a 2- to 3-inch layer of the shredded leaves to your soil but take care to keep it away from the
stems of your plants. The mulch will help to retain water and will suppress weed germination. Leafmold
also makes an excellent mulch. Fork shredded leaves right into your soil
before winter. Next spring you’ll find earthworms and
other microorganisms teeming in your soil, which will be crumblier and water-retentive. Just take care not to add too many, as large quantities can deplete
nitrogen in the soil as they break down. A 6-inch blanket of leaves protects
tender plants from winter wind and cold. Cover cold-hardy vegetables such as
carrots, kale, leeks and beets, and you’ll be able to harvest them all
winter. You’ll need to provide some sort of frame around the leaves to prevent them from blowing away. This no-dig method of gardening is best started or replenished in the fall. It involves layering greens and browns
on a bed to 2 feet high which will soon rot and sink down. As a rule of thumb, you need twice as many browns in each layer as you do greens, and leaves make a great source of browns
at a time when they are most plentiful. If you run out of steam with all the
other methods, bag them up as you would for making
easy leafmold, and leave them. They make an excellent source of browns early in the growing season (when they’re often in short supply) and if you do forget about them you’ll find wonderful bags of leafmold! The best leaves to use are oak, beech and
hornbeam. Other deciduous tree leaves also work,
well, but thicker leaves such as horse chestnut, sweet chestnut, walnuts and sycamore will take longer to break down. Tough evergreen leaves like holly take too long for even the most patient gardener, and are best shredded before adding to the compost heap. Pine tree needles can be collected to
make an acidic leafmold suitable for ericaceous plants such as
the blueberry, but they can take many years to break down. Be careful with some kinds of leaves –
walnuts, eucalyptus and camphor laurel leaves contain substances that inhibit
plant growth, and are best avoided. And never use
leaves which have been exposed to pollutants, such as those from the roadside,as you
don’t want to introduce problems into your soil. It might be tempting to just let nature
run its course and to leave them where they fall or blow. Left on the grass however, they will exclude light and if left in big enough quantities can
form a barrier through which water cannot pass, This will result in dead patches of
grass by next spring, so raking them up is advisable. Clearing
leaves may seem like an endless task, but the results are well worth it. Putting your leaves to good use before
winter is a great way to get a head start on next season’s growing and ensure a great supply of organic
matter for your plot. [Music]