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Leaf mould/mulch advice.

Womble54Womble54 Posts: 348
I’ve got bags of leaves that I collected from the garden. I was hoping the 2 year old bags would be broken down and I could use them for mulch on be veg beds this year. It looks like the leaves aren’t very broken down. I didn't shred them, probably why it’s slow to break down.

Will this be ok to use as mulch on the veg beds? Or should I leave it another year? Any suggestions for alternatives? I don’t want to spend too much buying in mulch if I can avoid it.



  • cornellycornelly Posts: 969
    I would empty the bags onto the ground and run the lawn mower over them, to break the leaves down, then use as a mulch, 
  • Womble54Womble54 Posts: 348
    Thanks. Good suggestion, but sadly I went for artificial turf a few years ago, so no lawn mower. I’ll find a way to shred them up a bit.
  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,530
    My first attempt at leaf mould was piling them into a mesh cylinder.  Too dry, only the core of the heap rotted, leaving a lot of leaves around the outside that looked just as they did the day I swept them.  Next time, I tried plastic sacks, and like you, I just ended up with bags of wet leaves. This year, I've gone back to the mesh cylinder, but lined it with 2-3 thicknesses of corrugated cardboard and more cardboard on top of the heap, hoping this will retain water and more of the leaves will decay.  Come the autumn, I'll report if it's worked.
  • LG_LG_ Posts: 4,101
    edited May 2019
    What kind of leaves are they, mainly, @Womble54? They look like they might be quite thick, even waxy? Some leaves make leaf mould a lot quicker than others.
    'If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.'
    - Cicero
  • NollieNollie Posts: 7,006
    Can’t you borrow a lawn mower from a neighbour? If you can’t do that, any mulch is better than no mulch, but shredded or not, I would keep unrotted leaves away from the stems of most veggies, especially the things most susceptible to crown rot like outdoor cucumbers and courgettes. 
    Mountainous Northern Catalunya, Spain. Hot summers, cold winters.
  • LynLyn Posts: 21,864
    They need to come out of the bag, we’ve never chopped them up, just piled in a chicken wire frame so the air can get to them and they can drain. It does take a couple of years.
    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • HelixHelix Posts: 631
    Next time, punch holes in the bags so they don’t dry out.
  • Womble54Womble54 Posts: 348
    Good tips everyone. Thank you. The leaves are mostly honey locust and wisteria. The big thick ones you can see are bay leaves. Another bag that was mostly the small honey locust is much better. Sadly I don’t really have the space for a big wire bin.

    I’ll poke some holes in the bags from last autumn and hopefully they will be better for next year. 

    I’ll tip them into a wheel barrow and try to shred them best I can. The wife gets cross is I make a mess of the fake lawn.

  • LG_LG_ Posts: 4,101
    That goes some way to explaining it then - thick, chunky leaves will eventually break down, but it takes years. The first year I made leaf mould, it was mainly lime leaves and I got great results in a year. The next year, and last year, there was a much higher proportion of oak and they have taken two years. Lovely stuff, but took twice as long, even though they're not that much tougher than lime. So you can imagine how long bay would take in comparison! I didn't shred at all, but had I had the chance I would have done - it all happens much more quickly then, and is essential for thick leaves.
    'If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.'
    - Cicero
  • Guernsey Donkey2Guernsey Donkey2 Posts: 6,713
    We have found Bay and Holly just don't break down or as LG says they take years.  We have been making mulch from leaves for 3 or 4 years now, before that we just put them on our compost heap - but the leaves do take 2 to 3 years to break down in the bags and we found our compost heap had many leaves almost in the same state as when we added them a few months earlier.  We add water to the bags of leaves, then stab some holes with a pair of scissors, tie the bags with string, then leave them for a couple of years before using the contents of the bag around shrubs and in flower beds. The birds love the worms that come with the mulch.
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