There’s always plenty to do in the school garden – even on dreary Autumn days. One of our regular jobs in November is raking and collecting the leaves that strew the playground and field near the garden. We stow them in a leaf mould bin, made from a cylinder of wire mesh secured with hazel prunings round the back of the garden shed for a year to rot down to the most glorious soil conditioner and mulch. We also add it to our potting mixture and I take a few trugsful home to scatter in the chicken run. It stops it turning into a quagmire on very rainy weeks. Newly fallen leaves can also be used as winter cover for bare soil although you will probably want to remove it before sowing in the Spring .
All sorts of leaves can be used to make leafmould except evergreens and will rot down, though some will take longer than others. However you can speed up the process by chopping the leaves up (or mowing them). For really large quantities leaf hoovers are a good idea and they will chop the leaves too. You can hire them for a day – or borrow one from someone with a country estate.
Water them if they are a bit dry and store them in some black sacks which you’ve punched a few holes in or in a mesh bin (the prettier option) and leave for a year or two.
We use some of the leafmould as a mulch around trees and shrubs and dig it in as a soil improver. The rest we leave to break down further and mix it with sharp sand, loam and garden compost in equal parts to make a potting compost.
There are plenty of leaves to rake up around the school grounds but we don’t disturb drifts of leaves under hedges and other out of the way areas. They may be used as hibernating sites by hedgehogs and other creatures. and we do love our wild areas and wildlife..
Of course, whilst raking leaves and partaking of a bit of garden alchemy is fun we also do our fair share of stamping on leaves, throwing them, making leaf pictures, lying down on them and staring up at the sky on crisp days. It’s not all work at gardening club, you know!