In Patrick’s Patch we gratefully rake up all the leaves which fall into Patrick’s Patch in the autumn. Small amounts of autumn-leaves can be added to the compost heap but too many will slow down the composting process. We prefer to deal with all our autumn-leaves separately in order to produce leafmould.

We use our freshly fallen leaves as a winter soil protector. They are raked up and spread thickly on bare areas of soil. Initially we may cover them with a tarpaulin but once they get wet, they tend to stay-put and can be left uncovered.

In early spring we will remove the partially decomposed leaves from the beds and bag them up in builders’ bulk bags. At this stage we sprinkle in some spent coffee grounds from our café (you could also use grass clippings), this adds nitrogen to the system which will enable quicker rotting. We’ll also incorporate a few shovels of our own garden compost to introduce some of the useful decomposing organisms. With their high lignin content leaves will mostly be decomposed slowly by fungi under cool conditions. We put several layers of cardboard on the top of the bags and leave them until the following January/February.

For us this will be enough time to produce a dark crumbly material with no trace of the original leaves, though for some types of leaf it can take two years to get to this stage. We do have to pass it through a coarse sieve to remove any stones (from our paths) and larger twiggy material.

Once sieved it is ready to be used as homemade potting or seed compost. A superior product made on site and requiring no additional transport or packaging. Win-win.

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