What is leaf mould?

Leaf mould is just decomposed leaves that have been broken down by fungus.

What can I use leaf mould for?

Good quality, well-rotted leaf mould (more than two years old) can be used as seed-sowing compost, or mixed equally with sharp sand, garden compost and good quality soil for use as potting compost.

Leaf mould that is less than two years old can be used as mulch, soil improver (worms love it!) autumn top-dressing for lawns, or winter covering for bare soil.

Can I use all types of leaves?

Yes, but some types of leaves break down quicker than others.

Leaves that break down with in a year and don’t need shredding:

  • ash
  • beech
  • birch
  • cherry
  • elm
  • hornbeam
  • lime
  • oak
  • poplar
  • willow

Pile of Oak tree leaves


Leaves  that will take 18-24 months to break down.  You can shred them using a mower to help speed up the process:

  • hawthorn
  • horse chestnut
  • magnolia
  • maple
  • sweet chestnut
  • sycamore
  • walnut

Leaves from evergreens, conifers and pines are slow to decompose. It is better to add these to your compost heap.

It’s totally fine to use your lawn mower to shred any leaves together. Any grass clippings gathered at the same time will help to increase the nutrient value of the leaf mould. However, if your lawn contains weeds, be careful as you don’t want to be adding weed seeds to your leaf mould!

A person raking leaves from a lawn

When can I start to making leaf mould?

As soon as leaves start to fall off trees – usually in September.


How to make leaf mould

  1. Collect leaves from your own garden or from your street. Those collected by main busy roads may be affected by pollution, so leaves from quieter streets and side roads are preferable
  2. If you have a lawn mower, you can use it to chop up the leaves this will make then rot quicker but also adds grass clippings, so increasing the nutrient value of the leaf mould.
  3. Place the leaves into a bin liner, wet them if they are dry, then pierce holes in the bag with a knife or garden fork, tie the top loosely and stack the bags out of sight for up to two years in a shady spot.
  4. If you have a lot of leaves and space, make a square or round frame from chicken wire, supported with stakes or bamboo canes. Ideally, this should be in a sheltered part of the garden to ensure that the leaves don’t blow away. Make your leaf heap as large as possible to speed up decay and wet it occasionally if it becomes dry.

For more tips about composting, visit our Let’s Compost Now page.

Leaves in a frame made out of chicken wire


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