Monty Don: ‘Nothing makes a better soil conditioner’ – make your plants flourish for free

Monty Don calls on gardeners to stop using peat

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Leafmould is formed from decaying leaves and produces an invaluable soil conditioner. Sharing gardening advice in his latest blog post, Monty Don, best known for Gardeners’ World, shared how to make leafmould.

Monty wrote: “October is the main month of autumn. Climate change has meant that – in my part of the world at least – leaf fall is gradually getting later and autumnal colour is getting more dramatic, although this obviously varies from year to year.

“But everyday there is a gentle drift of leaf fall that picks up in volume as the days pass.

“If there is a frost the frozen leaves clatter to the ground as the sun thaws them, and they can be raked, brittle and stiff, to head towards the lead mould heap.

“I am obsessed about making leafmould, gathering as many of the fallen leaves as possible, mowing them to chop them up and then stacking them in a big open heap so that they break down into a lovely rich, crumbly texture and become an essential component of our home-made potting compost.

“But I also do leave drifts and piles of leaves under hedges and trees to provide over-wintering cover for hedgehogs, frogs, small mammals and insects, along with stacks of logs and piles of prunings.

“All of which gives essential winter protection for these small creatures that contribute so much to the garden’s health.”

What’s more, collecting leaves and making the soil conditioner is completely free.

Monty added: “Unless the weather is bad most leaves do not start falling until November but gather them all and store every last one.

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“Nothing makes a better soil conditioner or potting medium.

“If you do not have someone where to store, sort this out.

“A simple bay made from four posts and chicken wire is ideal.”

According to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), different leaves, dependent on the tree, break down faster than others.

The website reads: “All leaves and conifer needles will eventually break down into leafmould. Some leaves, such as oak, beech or hornbeam, break down with little assistance and produce an excellent quality product.

“Thick leaves like sycamore, walnut, horse chestnut and sweet chestnut need to be shredded before adding to the leafmould pile, as they are much slower to break down. 

“Alternatively, they can be added to the compost heap after shredding.”

How do you use leafmould to help your plants flourish?

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According to the RHS, gardeners can be used as seed-sowing compost or potting compost.

However, this could take up to two years, as the leaves need time to decay.

The RHS said: “Poor quality leafmould, or leafmould that is less than two years old can be used as mulch, soil improver, autumn top-dressing for lawns, or winter covering for bare soil.”

Leafmould can become infested with weeds as well as contaminated with rubbish.

Gardeners should keep an eye on their leafmould and remove any litter from piles of leaves.

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