Hello and welcome to The Compost Bin. I'm Compostwoman and I live with my family in rural Herefordshire. We have nearly four acres of garden and woodland, all managed organically and to Permaculture principles, which we share with Chickens, Cats and assorted wildlife. We also grow a lot of our own food, run courses in all sorts of things and make a lot of compost!

I am a Master Composter and have spent more than a decade as a volunteer Community Compost adviser with Garden Organic and my local Council.
I'm a self employed Environmental Educator so I run workshops and events where I talk about compost, veg growing, chicken keeping, cooking, preserving and sustainable living. I also run crafts workshops and Forest School/outdoor play sessions in our wood.

We try to live a more self sufficient lifestyle here, as best we can, while still having a comfortable life and lots of fun.

To learn more about us click on the About Compostwoman tab and remember to click on the photos to make them full size!

Monday 29 December 2008

Leaf Mould

Autumn brings a carpet of leaves, which take a long time to compost. I have been recently making Leaf Mould (or Mold) from all the fallen leaves in our wood and garden. I used the ride on mower for some of the leaf gathering as we have SO many leaves to collect! I do, however, also gather some the traditional way, with a rake!

This pile was gathered up on 25th November.

Why do I want to make leaf mould? Why do I not just leave the leaves where they fall?
Well, I DO leave the leaves in the wood where they can compost down as nature intended, and provide a wonderful home for all manner of insects, worms and small mammals as well as a rich and varied eco system of fungi and microbes.

BUT the leaves which fall on the grass will simply exclude light and damage the grass AND I want them to make a valuable resource in an organic gardener's repertoire of tricks, a fine, brown compost-like material, which can be used in the same way as compost.

It is very easy to make leaf mould. The best method is to gather large quantities of leaves and put them into a container and leave them to rot down. A wire enclosure or a black sack (with some holes for aeration) will work fine for this. It is best to collect the leaves when they are wet as this will help them to break down quicker, if they are dry, water them a little as you place them into the container.

Please note I use compost bins simply because I have some available!

Compostman squashing down the leaves so as to get more in the bin!

All that big pile of leaves gone into 2 compost bins.

Covered over and ready to leave for a year or so. These two bins will produce a little less than 1 bin of finished leaf mould compost

Leaves will take a year or two to decompose into a usable form. To speed up this process I mix the leaves with some grass cuttings (another reason to use the ride on mower!), this gives me a much richer leaf mould in about a year , due to the leaves being chopped up a bit and the grass clippings adding heat to the composting process.

The finished leaf mould can be used in a variety of ways, it can be used as a weed-suppressing and moisture-retaining mulch, dug in, spread over a lawn, sprinkled over seeds or for making potting compost. It will improve the physical structure of the soil and make it more fertile. Leaf mould is incredibly rich and nutritious and I have found is very good for using in an onion or shallot bed.

Digging out the 2008 leaf mould to use in a shallot bed. This has the happy advantage of freeing up compost bins to make this year's leaf mould.

The finished, planted up shallot and garlic bed.

So, next time you see some leaves in the Autumn, if you don't make leaf mould, have a go! Its a free way to get some wonderful organic matter into your soil and it is another step along the path to a more self sufficient/self reliant way of life.


  1. Sounds great! Can you just put your leaves in with the rest of your compost?

  2. We ended up getting a new mower this fall. We ended up, after much deliberation over which was the best type of mower, getting one with a collection bag. We usually the mulching blade on the grass but the collection bag was fabulous for cutting up and collecting the leaves for composting. It chops and vacuums them all at once for easy transport to the compost pile.

  3. Next year I shall be forgoing leaf mould and will instead use the leaves to put down on the paths through the field in an attempt to ward off the evils of ankle-deep mud. I've used some in front of the pig arks and it works a treat.

    Using nature to overcome nature - that's the way forward!

  4. Wonderful information, thank you for sharing. I wish I were more settled to have a great garden set up. Bernie and I are pretty nomadic, and so I only end up with a garden now and then, I do happen to be at my parents for the moment though, and this fall as a clean up we gathered up the leaves with the riding mower, and just put the chopped up matter on the part of the garden that we didnt want little plants to fill in.
    I enjoy reading about your gardening/farming adventures.

  5. Joanne, you CAN put them in with the rest of the stuff in the compost heap BUT leaves take longer to compost down than other stuff, so it is better to have a separate leaf pile/bin.

    You can always add partially or fully composted leaf mould TO the compost heap afterwards if you like.

  6. Fullfreezer thats what *I* do with our ride on mower, use it to gather up as many as I can at a time and clear paths on the grass.

    Bring me sunshine, I use leaves in the same way with the hens! I put them in their runs and quite often dump a pile in the Orchard for them to have a furtle through...

    dowhatyoulove thank you for the compliment :-)
    I do that with leaves, just rake them up off the grass and put them on to beds, but with 14 chickens roaming around, they don't stay there very long .... ;-)

    also I like making leaf mould, it is a useful thing to have around and I use it to make potting compost....a post for the future I think!

  7. Hi CW,
    Thanks for the interesting and useful post - we really need to get our garden sorted - we've got such big plans for next year but time is racing by already!

    Thanks for your comment on my blog - not sure if you checked back for the reply or not so thought I'd reply here too - we're back in Wales now but hope to be over your way for the Grand Cider tasting in Spring - I'm already counting the days.... :)


Hello! Thank you for reading my blog and for commenting. I try to reply as quickly as I can and I really appreciate your interest in my life and doings here in The Compost Bin.