The Wildlife Gardener is easy to please. If a ton of well-rotted manure arrived over my hedge on Christmas morning it would be my best present ever. Unfortunately, a ton of manure isn’t that easy to come by, and I would be unwilling to sully the interior of the WGmobile transporting sacks of dung. But nature usually provides, and a solution to soil fertility issues lies literally in my own back yard. The oak tree has just scattered its leaves over the whole of the back garden (and the neighbours’):
I would miss a trick if I didn’t gather them all up to make that loveliest of soil conditioners, leaf mould. Oak leaves make the best leaf mould. So, on a sunny but cold morning, I decided that the 2007 vintage leaf mould should be started. I pulled the mower out of the shed. If you pick up leaves with a mower, it should chop them finely with the grass cuttings, and they should rot down more quickly. Unfortunately I couldn’t start the mower, so I put it back in the shed and took out a rake. Before I started raking I checked that there were no hibernating hedgehogs in the leaf piles. I wasn’t expecting to see any, as hedgehogs are now on the list of priority species. I had far too many slugs and snails this year for there to have been a hedgehog assisting with pest control. Shame. I bagged the leaves into black plastic bin liners:
I threw a bucket of water into each bag, tied it, then savagely stabbed it with a garden fork to let air in:
Last year’s oak leaves are half way through the rotting process ” a uniformly brown mass.
Leaf mould at this stage can be used as a mulch for plants, a cover for bare winter soil, or as a dig-in compost. You need to leave it another year for it to become crumbly compost:
This is the delicious leaf mould that can be used as potting compost with a bit of sharp sand and garden compost mixed in. It’s nutritious, has no peat, and it’s free! When I come to dig over the veg patch next year I shall incorporate the inherited leaf mould stored in a wire cage behind the shed. That is now over two years old, crumbly and gorgeous. And it has little holly seedlings in it which I shall pot up, nurture and use to fill holes in my mixed hedgerows. Even with this natural abundance, a girl can never have too much manure. So if there are any Naturenet readers in the East Surrey/West Kent area who are desperate to rid themselves of a ton of manure and give the Wildlife Gardener a very happy Christmas, get in touch via the website!