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jardin-perdu / Our top tips for making perfect leaf mould
Le Jardin Perdu Making Leaf Mould

How to make perfect leaf mould

It’s inevitable, at some point during Autumn you’re going to have to spend time removing leaves from your lawn. When you live in the middle of the French countryside,  surrounded by trees, that task feels mammoth. There is an upside though; you can make huge quantities of leaf mould!

Le Jardin Perdu Making Leaf Mould

Leaf mould is an invaluable, organic soil conditioner and better still it’s practically free! All it costs are a few bin liners and a bit of hard work; but with Christmas and mince pies on the horizon we don’t think that’s a bad thing!

Our top 10 tips for making leaf mould.

1. Leaves from oak, hornbeam, beech, ash, birch, cherry, elm, lime, poplar and willow are low in fibrous lignin and high in nitrogen and calcium. These leaves will produce leaf mould within a year and do not need to be shredded first.

2. Large, tough leaves are generally high in lignin and low in nitrogen and calcium. They will take 18-24 months to break down. As these leaves need a little more help, it’s advisable to either shred or gather them using a mower to help speed up the process. This type of leaf includes those from sycamore, walnut, horse chestnut, sweet chestnut, magnolia, maple and hawthorn.

3. Leaves from evergreens such as holly, laurel, bay, photinia and rhododendron are slow to decompose. Its is better to add these to your compost heap.

4. Likewise, leaves from conifers and pines are slow to decompose. They can either be added to your compost heap, or if you gather them separately and leave them uncovered for about a year, can be to used as mulch for ericaceous plants. You should turn the leaves over every 6-8 weeks and moisten them during dry weather.

5. It’s totally fine to use your lawn mower to collect any leaves. It will shred them and in doing so will increase the speed in which the leaves break down. Any grass clippings gathered at the same time will help to increase the nutrient value of the leaf mould. However, if your ‘lawn’, like ours, is more of a ‘weed lawn’ be careful as you don’t want to be adding weed seeds to the lovely soil conditioner you’re making.

6. Store the gathered leaves in bin liners with holes pierced in their sides. The leaves should be moistened if dry, the bags then tied loosely and stored in a shady spot for 1-2 years.

Le Jardin Perdu Making Leaf Mould


7. Alternatively, if you have the space, you can make a leaf bin using timber and metal mesh. The leaves should be kept moist to aid decomposition.  Covering the bin with tarpoulin or a bâche will also help to keep the moisture in.

8. Leaf mould which is well-rotted, usually more than 2 years old, can be used as seed sowing compost.

9. Leaf mould that is less than 2 years old can be used as mulch or soil conditioner; worms love it! Spread a layer of leaf mould on your borders or vegetable patch in early spring or late autumn and before you know it worms will have dragged it down into the soil for you!

10. If you don’t have enough leaves in your garden to make leaf mould, gather them from local parks. You may look a little crazy, but who cares when you’re getting free soil conditioner?! Alternatively ask friends and family to gather their leaves for you to add to your pile.

It’s reported that one mature oak tree grows and sheds over 200,000 leaves in just one year! Free and organic, we think it’s a shame not to make use of their produce and in doing so make your garden healthier and worms happy!

Do you collect leaves every year to make leaf mould or to perhaps make use of them in some other way? We’d love to know, please do leave your comments in the box below.

A bientôt

Katherine x



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'How to make perfect leaf mould' have 10 comments

  1. December 9, 2016 @ 5:29 am Cathy

    Great post! So many people see leaves as a problem to be tidied up when they are a great free gift for the soil as you say. If you leave a pile in a quiet corner you make a home for hedge hogs and slow worms


    • December 9, 2016 @ 10:00 am Katherine

      Great idea to leave a pile in a corner for hedgehogs and slow worms 🙂


  2. December 9, 2016 @ 8:27 pm Patricia

    Great to read your guide on autumn leaves, we have a very large, old oak tree that is still shedding its leaves,and always understood it took two years to decompose so we have never saved as we have no where to store (especially through the summer months) but I shall give it a try now. I do however, collect all the other smaller leaves and have created a great flower bed in a dark, poor area with very little natural nutrients, from composing on the site for the last few year. Keep the tips coming -I enjoy reading your articles. Best wishes for Christmas and the new year.


    • December 12, 2016 @ 7:52 am Katherine

      Thank you Pat, I’m so happy you enjoy my blogs. Have a wonderful Christmas and the very best of wishes for 2017 x


  3. January 9, 2017 @ 9:10 pm Rosemary Kneipp

    We naturally leaf-mould the little wood behind our house but all the other leaves get thrown over the fence between us and the railway line. I didn’t realise I could actually do something with them. I shall add leaf moulding to next years tasks :).


  4. January 11, 2017 @ 6:29 pm Phoebe | Lou Messugo

    We have several oaks in the garden and picking up the leaves is always a chore as I didn’t know they could be made into something so useful. I’ll definitely do this from now on, thanks for such a great tip. Thanks for linking to #AllAboutFrance too!


  5. November 8, 2018 @ 3:54 pm jardin-perdu / Our Top November Gardening Jobs - jardin-perdu

    […] the leaves away, use them to make a fabulous, FREE, organic soil conditioner. Learn how to make leaf mould in our earlier […]


  6. December 6, 2018 @ 1:32 pm Nicky Dawson

    I hoover mine up (easy but I spend more time hoovering outside than I do inside the house!!) Once my bin is full I scatter along my plant beds and pots. The thickness of leaves protect my plants from the frost and cold weather. The blackbirds love scrabbling through them to get the worms – they make extra mess but at least that’s giving them a winter feed too. The leaf beds soon mulch down on their own by Spring.


    • December 7, 2018 @ 2:37 pm Katherine

      I like the idea of spending more time hoovering your garden than the inside of your house! 😉 Leaves do make a wonderful winter protector for plants and borders, and nothing beats watching birds rummaging around in them!


  7. December 5, 2019 @ 5:36 pm Mel Constantinou

    I bagged up a load of chestnut leaves this time last year and was wondering if they’d be ready. Thanks for clarifying that I should leave them another year! Very useful post.


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Le Jardin Perdu 2018. All images and posts are the property of Katherine Forshaw

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