Autumn in the garden

Autumn in the garden: such a lovely time of year. Unfortunately the rain and wind will soon have the leaves down, and then it will be time to start raking. But it's easy to turn leaves into a wonderful leaf-mould mulch that benefits the soil. 

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.

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.