Gardening on a Budget

Leaf harvest

NOKIA Lumia 800_001124Autumn has come to an end before I even had a chance to write another seasonal thrills without frills. The asparagus and the rhubarb is starting to die down and the trees have dropped their leaves all over the lawn.

I’ve raked up the leaves in the hope of making leaf mould. Unlike regular compost, leaf mould is easy to make, doesn’t smell, and doesn’t require special equipment. It does, however, require patience. Lacking in the nitrogen required for a speedy bacterial decomposition, leaves are slowly broken down by fungi instead. Leaf mould is also nutrient poor, so plants will still need an additional dressing of fertiliser or worm castings.

To make leaf mould, I usually collect leaves* after it has been raining, since fungi love damp conditions. The leaves go into a bin and occasionally get rehydrated with some water or bokashi juice. Apparently, shredding the leaves first, throwing in some nitrogen-rich grass clippings, or turning the pile with a shovel every once in a while speeds things up but I’m a lazy gardener and would rather wait it out.

After a year or two, I end up with this:

NOKIA Lumia 800_001125
It’s dark and crumbly and smells earthy. Some gardeners use leaf mould as a mulch or as a soil conditioner. I use it as seedling mix because of its fine texture, low nutrient content, and ability to retain water.

*Avoid excessive amounts of oily leaves such as pine needles and eucalyptus. There’s speculation that such leaves reduce water retention.

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