The advice that gardening experts give to those with poor quality soil is to incorporate plenty of ‘bulky organic matter’ – it will help to improve the quality and nutrient levels of your soil over time. While that’s all good in theory, the ‘bulky’ part of the solution can be a bit problematic, particularly when you have an allotment at the top of a steep hill.
Last year, my sister and I managed to acquire eight black bin bags full of well-rotted horse manure, and by the time we had lugged it off the farm and up to the plot we were rather exhausted. Furthermore, when we spread it out we discovered it barely even covered one of the five raised beds – that was a lot of work for very little gain!
While I appreciate the merits of well-rotted horse manure, bulky organic matter comes in many different forms – garden manure, leafmould, green manure, wood chippings…. Moving forward I’m doing all I possibly can to nurture my bulky organic matter on the allotment itself (quite frankly, the less lugging around the better!).
First and foremost comes the home made compost which is rotting down in the three compost bins I built using old pallets. While they have been likened to a horse stable, they definitely work well and this year I’ve spread my first batch of home produced organic matter over my beds (it will rot down further over winter and will definitely help to improve the soil structure).
This year i also built a leafmould bin using four stakes hammered into the ground in a square shape and wrapped in chicken wire. Mum has been very generous bringing bags of leaves from the garden up and the bin’s practically full already!
Leafmould makes a great soil improver and can also be used as a potting compost. All you need to do is gather the leaves and let them rot down for 12-18 months.
Best of all leaves are free and there’s plenty of them around at this time of year. They are also lightweight so easy to shift around. Here’s some top tips for making the best leafmould:
- Only use deciduous leaves as evergreen leaves break down too slowly. Some of the best leaves to use are oak, beech, sycamore and horse chestnut.
- If possible, shred the leaves before you put them into your leaf mould bin or black bin bag – it will help them to rot down quicker.
- Either store leaves in a plastic sack or in a wire mesh bin with four corner posts.
- If you are storing your leaves in a plastic sack, ensure you add some water to ensure they are damp and able to rot down easily.
- Tie the sack to keep the heat in – it will speed up the process, and puncture some holes to allow ventilation. Place out of sight behind a shed and leave undisturbed for about a year
Your leafmould will be ready to use when the individual leaves are broken down. If you want to use it as seed compost you will need to wait another 6 months or so to allow it to rot down further. It may also need to be sieved.