Gardeners' World: Monty Don shows how to grow garlic
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During the winter months, many plants will enter dormancy, meaning they won’t grow as fast and need some rest. However, there are other jobs to do, including gathering leaves to make invaluable soil conditioner next year. Sharing advice in his November blog post, gardening expert Monty Don recommended making leafmould to use as mulch.
He wrote: “Keep gathering fallen leaves, mowing them, keeping them damp and storing in a bay or bin bags to make leafmould.
“Leaves decompose mostly by fungal action rather than bacterial which means that dry leaves can take an awfully long time to turn into the lovely, friable, sweet-smelling soft material that true leafmould invariably becomes.
“So, either gather leaves when they are wet or be prepared to dampen them with a good soaking before covering them up with the next layer.
“It also helps a lot to chop them up. The easiest way to do this is to mow them which also gathers them up as you do it.
“Of course if the leaves are too wet, they will clog the mower up.
“I try and sweep and then rake them into a line when dry, run the mower over them and then give them a soak with the hose when they are in the special chicken wired bay.”
If gardeners don’t have a dedicated space to put their leaves, they can put them into a black bin bag along with a few drainage holes at the bottom.
Make sure to soak them and let them drain before storing it out of sight. Monty said: “This system works perfectly well.
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“Either way the leaves will quietly turn into leafmould over the next six months without further attention.
“You can also use them in spring in a half-decomposed state, as a very good mulch around emerging plants.”
Mulch can help to suppress weeds and improve the soil around plants to help them grow.
It can also give the garden a tidier appearance as well as reducing the amount of time spent on tasks such as weeding.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) recommends gathering leaves from quieter spots to avoid atmospheric pollution.
This includes garden spaces or in public spaces such as parks.
The RHS said: “Leafmould heaps can become infested with weeds, so use the resulting product cautiously, avoiding formal areas of the garden where weeds would be a serious problem.
“Street leaves may be contaminated with litter and rubbish, so make sure to sort through the leaves before adding them to your leafmould pile.
“If your leafmould pile is slow to break down into leafmould, try turning it regularly to aerate the leaves and speed up the breakdown process.
“Make sure that the leaves do not dry out, moistening the pile if necessary in hot, dry weather.”
Leafmould that is more than two years old is considered to be “good quality” and can be used as seed-sowing compost or garden compost.
When it is younger than two years old, leafmould can be used as mulch, soil improver or autumn top-dressing for lawns.
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