Skip to content
Back Back to Insurance menu Go to Insurance
Back Back to Holidays menu Go to Holidays
Back Back to Saga Magazine menu Go to Magazine
Search Magazine

How to make leaf mould

Martyn Cox

Turn falling autumn leaves into leaf mould, a wonderful compost that can be used as mulch or as a soil conditioner.

Autumnal leaves, which can be used to make leaf mould
Fallen autumn leaves from deciduous trees can make an excellent compost

Which leaves should I use?

Most leaves from deciduous trees and shrubs can be composted, but some will rot down at a faster rate than others. Hornbeam, oak and beech will compost swiftly, while leaves from sycamore and horse chestnut will take a little longer. 

Leaves from conifers and evergreen trees can take up to three years to compost down, so are best shredded and then added to a traditional compost heap.

Related: improving your soil.

Collecting in bin liners

The easiest way to make leaf mould is to collect leaves in black plastic bin liners. To do this, puncture several holes in the base and sides of the bag, which will help drainage and allow air to flow through the bag, preventing leaves from turning slimy.

Rake up leaves regularly and stash them in the bag. When almost full, ensure the leaves are damp by sprinkling with water, shake and then tie up the bag.

Lots of plastic bags will look ugly lying around the garden so store out of the way – a shady spot behind a shed or down an unused passage would be ideal. To ensure you have a plentiful supply of leaf mould, continue to fill bags until leaves stop falling.

Related: how green manures can improve your soil.

Make a leaf bin

If you have a large garden with lots of trees, it may be worthwhile creating a dedicated leaf bin.

All you need is four stout tree stakes and a roll of galvanised chicken wire. Make a square frame by hammering the four stakes into the ground – the dimensions depend on the amount of leaves that normally fall in your garden and the available space, but a metre-square bin would allow you to collect plenty of leaves.

Wind the chicken wire around the frame and secure to the posts with galvanised U-shaped staples.

Snip off excess wire. Put on some gloves and fold in sharp edges to prevent cutting yourself when adding leaves to the bin.

Related: how to make a compost heap.

How to use leaf mould

Open bags next autumn and you'll find that leaves have changed into a crumbly material that is ideal to be used as mulch, helping to lock in soil moisture and prevent weeds from germinating. 

At this stage the compost is still recognisable as leaves, but if you leave it another year, it will have rotted down further to a dark brown compost, which can be dug into the ground as a soil conditioner. This material contains high levels of humus, which help soil to retain moisture and enable it to hold onto nutrients.

Related: benefits of mulching.


Saga Magazine is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site or newsletter, we may earn affiliate commission. Everything we recommend is independently chosen irrespective of affiliate agreements.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.