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Leave the leaves

One of our trees a Prunus Nigra has lost nearly all it's leaves in the last month so after raking  them off the grass once again,  I decided to gather up all the leaves that had fallen onto the nearby borders.  There was quite a deep covering over the plants and soil so it did look a lot better once I had finished. 

But I then wondered if it would have been better to have left them to rot down. In the past I have dumped a load of leaves on the back of the borders where there is just soil hoping they would rot away but it never happens. They are still there in the spring and then I have to clear them up as they look a mess and it's just more work when there is already plenty of  things needing  my attention. 

Is there anything that I could apply that would help the fallen leaves turn into leaf mould  over the winter months. 

I've tried putting them in black plastic bags but have no where to hide them and they didn't rot down either. 

Or should I just put the leaves in the garden waste bags and be done with them?



  • Steve 309Steve 309 Posts: 2,753

    If you can mix them with the soil at the back of the beds, that would help them rot - they need to be wet, or at least damp.  And warm - which is why they don't rot much over the winter.  I bet if you were to leave them over the summer, the plants would grow up and hide them and the worms, fungi etc. would get busy and they'd all disappear.

    Better yet, if you can find or produce an odd corner, you can heap them up there and stop them blowing about with some wire netting.  They'll turn (eventually) into wonderful leafmould.  It can also be done in big polybags (again, if you can find somewhwere to put them) but they need to have lots of holes in them to let the rain and the beasties in.

  • Hello Steve,

    if I remember rightly I did throw some multi purpose on top of the leaves if only to hold them down but they still looked like leaves In the spring . Maybe I was being too hasty. Does it make any difference what type of trees they came off. Do some turn into leafmould quicker.  I have two corners where I could put some  but we have quite a few trees so I would have to be choosy which ones to compost. 

    Sorry for so many questions. 

  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 27,159

    Some turn quicker, yes. They all disappear when the plants leaf up in spring though. All adds to the organic stuff in the soil. I would remove them from around tiny plants or those that like it well drained and airy, but otherwise leaves stay where they fall.

    In the sticks near Peterborough
  • CloggieCloggie Posts: 1,455

    Why Wisterias in the green bin Doghouse?  I usually trim my cuttings into tiny pieces and put on the compost.

  • CloggieCloggie Posts: 1,455

    Last year's leaves went into black bags behind the shed but I recently stepped over them and suspect that the contents are slimy (I nearly slipped over when stepping on a bag).

    I wonder if I should leave these bags another year (I seem to remember that leaf mould takes 2 years) and collect this years and rotate.

    I was looking forward to using this lot on the clematises.

  • Papi JoPapi Jo Posts: 3,861

    From my own experience, I'd advise to NEVER leave dead leaves whole on the ground. Chop them into tiny bits first. Can be very time-consuming but only way to get them to decompose reasonably fast.

    Interesting reading on this topic "Dead Leaf Debate, Part 2 – Chopping and Composting" at

    You are invited to a virtual visit of my garden (in English or in French).
  • PosyPosy Posts: 3,601

    Fallen leaves take longer to rot down than the usual compost material but make the best compost when they do. I haven't found black bags of leaves nearly as good as a wire mesh container where they just get on with the job for about two years. If you leave the leaves lying on the soil they provide the perfect home for slugs so if you have a slug problem, like me, pick them up.

  • I think where I can I will try to dig the smaller leaves in the soil and hope they rot by the spring, put a few in the corners where no one can see them and all the others especially the large ones  I will leave out for the dustmen to collect and the  council  can turn them into compost.  I will forget about the black bags as nowhere really to put them. 

    Read the Dead Leaf Debate , interesting . 

    Thanks for all your help. 

  • Steve 309Steve 309 Posts: 2,753

    If you have a far-sighted and sufficiently green council, you can probably put the leaves, along with all your other garden and kitchen waste into their green bin and let them do the composting.  Then they'll sell it back to you in the form of well-rotted garden compost, which you could make yourself - but probably not as well - if you had the space.

  • LesleyKLesleyK Posts: 4,029

    Steve I don't even trust my own compost, let alone the Council stuff which may (or may not) have nasty weed seeds/roots inimage.

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