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Using leaf mould as a mulch and soil improver

Hi all,

So I want to use up my leaf mould and start a new pile...but I’ve a few questions.

The front garden is the Garden of Desolation and the first target; under a huge old tree, has its own cherry tree, mature shrubs, but the soil isnt great and so far nothing I’ve added has thrived.  I’m assuming leaf mould is a good idea but I wonder if it hasn’t had decades of leaves going into it already?  

Will leaf mould help?  

Dig it in or lay it as a mulch?

If I do lay a mulch...How do I get all the new leaves off without removing the leaf mould I’m putting down?

Am I overthinking this?

Cheers,

TP
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Posts

  • AstroAstro Posts: 328
    Under trees is usually dry owing to the trees drawing so much moisture, and them acting like umbrellas. There are plants suited to under tree planting, the leaf mold would help improve the soil and hold moisture better.
  • NollieNollie Girona, Catalunya, Northen Spain.Posts: 5,025
    I would leave the new leaves to rot down over the leaf mulch, anything suitable for dry shade under trees will push through, that is what happens in woodland naturally. Even in very dry years like this year, the hellebores, wood anemones, cyclamen, aquilegias, hyacinths etc., manage to push through. That’s through tough evergreen oak leaves that take an age to rot down.
  • BrexiteerBrexiteer Birmingham Posts: 955
    Nollie said:
    I would leave the new leaves to rot down over the leaf mulch, anything suitable for dry shade under trees will push through, that is what happens in woodland naturally. Even in very dry years like this year, the hellebores, wood anemones, cyclamen, aquilegias, hyacinths etc., manage to push through. That’s through tough evergreen oak leaves that take an age to rot down.
    I cleaned our gutter out the other day  which was blocked with sludge which I presume is rotted down leaves and the only recognisable leaves left were oak. The funny thing as well is the only oak Tree near use blew down 3 years back 
  • NollieNollie Girona, Catalunya, Northen Spain.Posts: 5,025
    I can believe that Marc, 3 years later my mostly oak leaf mould still hasn’t broken down totally, but good enough to use, just!
  • JoeXJoeX Posts: 1,612
    Thanks Astro, I’ll dump it all on top after the next rainfall. Dig in or lay over the top?  


    Nollie - I won’t be leaving the leaves (ba boom) on top. They’re going the new leaf pile tucked beside the shed. 👍


  • NollieNollie Girona, Catalunya, Northen Spain.Posts: 5,025
    Ok Tinpot, no worries. Back to your question how do you remove the new leaves. Unless you want to get down on your hands and knees to pick them off, if the ground/the leaves are dry, you could try using a leaf blower on a low setting/from a distance to gently coral them into a pile. It could get messy though!
  • JoeXJoeX Posts: 1,612
    I think I’ll bag up the leaf mold and wait until the trees are bare, collect the leaves then put down the leaf mold.  Probably put a compost mulch over it too.

    Monty talks about 4-6” of mulch but that would spill out into the street so probably about half as deep as that, mold and compost.

    Havent decided whether to do it manually with a narrow leaf rake or get an electric blower/vacuum which might help with my drains blocking too.
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 26,273
    I would leave the newly fallen leaves where they are.  Worms and other organisms will work them into the soil for you over winter.  Once the trees are bare and some decent rain has got through to wet the soil I would then spread the leaf mold or other mulches such as well rotted manure over the newly fallen leaves.

    Come spring, when the soil is still moist, plant some lovely epimediums and hardy cyclamens and maybe a hardy fern or two - all good plants for dry shade in woodland glades.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 39,656
    I'd do what @Obelixx suggests. The old leaves will soon be down, and then you can do the whole thing 'in a oner'. If you want to collect old leaves instead of leaving [ ;)] them, you can gather them up before putting the made leaf mould, and any other stuff you have, down in place. If you can wait till you've had some decent rain, that would also help.
    Are all the trees and shrubs deciduous, or are there any evergreens? You can always do a wee bit of selective pruning to get more light in, and that might help rain get in more easily too. That will give you a bit more scope for your planting. 
    Even hardy geraniums will often cope well once established, in addition to the suggestions already given.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • JoeXJoeX Posts: 1,612
    Hmm, perhaps I could leave the leaves in the border and hold back on mould and mulch for a while.  But I’m keen to “get it done” so the space at the back is clear...but I could find alternatives.

    Ive posted pictures of the front before but omitted the rather obvious key feature - the huge tree in the street.  Theres no clipping I can do. My cherry tree pales into insignificance beside it, although I have mopped that back significantly.

    So this is an old photo, I’ve replaced the fence and decapitated the smaller cherry in the bottom left.

    Now from this angle it looks quite nice


    But I had to water constantly and replace dead plants to keep it nice, and around the cherry tree the dogwoods don’t seem to be thriving:


    It it is a lot better than it used to be in 2016 though!



    Im also thinking of trying ferns next year.
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