First serious leaf fall after a stormy weekend with thunderstorms locally.
Rather than let it sit and go to waste, it was gathered into a carpet on the grass strip, using a pair of Stihl leaf blowers. Then mulched down and shredded by several passes with a Toro TimeMaster.
Leaves by this point are a well mixed combination of shredded leaf matter, semi shredded leaves and some still intact or complete leaves, so the process of composting is enabled at a much faster rate.
These leaves were then collected and transported in a 300 Litre Roto Wheelbarrow, so it only takes a few loads to clean an area this size.
The mulch or compost it will produce, is invaluable in larger gardens, and also highly prized for the amount of nutrients it contains. Which will be added to beds & borders over the next few years as it matures and the composting cycle completes.
Due to the volume collected, the weight alone will cause intense compression and will actually speed up the process, some of these leaves will be ready for use as early as next spring. The leaf piles will be gradually added onto with many more barrow loads of leaves over the next few months. Each load pressing down on the ones below, where the rotting process has been accelerated by the mulching process initially, the mixture of material sizes and density allowing a steady amount of fuel for the creatures and fungus that is the beating heart of a compost heap.
Compost bays are essential when processing the sheer amount of leaves Shadow of the Gardener collects throughout the whole of our leaf harvesting cycle. Over the course of a full Autumn we will move and remove, process or transport hundreds of wheel barrowloads, & we operate with a 350 & a 300 Litre wheelbarrow.
More layers will eventually create a solid case around the warmer and active insides of the heap. This leafy outer shell protecting the heart inside from wind and rain. So piles are left to get on with their processes over winter. Then in spring we will open one to see how well the winter has affected the process, if it is ready we will turn the pile and remix it, then restack it or turn it into the next bay.
Eventually over time, the piles reduce in size and content, and what is left is leaf mould, a fine healthy compost material that is soft and fresh smelling, earthy and of course leaf like. It has rich tones and a gentle springy texture. It is brimming with goodness and vitality. It is after all what most forest floors are made of.
Across all out clients properties we will blow and mow several tonnes of leaves down, then collect and store them. Which soon adds up to a lot of compost and eventually amazing leaf mould.
Easily stored in simple to construct Pallet Bays, and easily upgraded to cages with the addition of a little wire fencing salvaged from elsewhere in the garden.
As the leaf matter dries out, it reduces in size dramatically, allowing for further heaping’s of more leaves till eventually the pile is complete and can be sealed shut and a cage lid added.
The lid only being taken off, to turn the bay through with a pitch fork, to allow air and mixing of the inner compost that is forming, to speed up the process with fresher rotting material that is less decomposed but ready to be used as fuel in the heart of the heap.
A well run compost heap is like a fire, requiring fuel to produce the heat, so the insects and fauna can be provided with a warm, but damp, rich in food source, safe, dark home. Once it has been started properly, it will soon show signs it is working, as you will see steam or feel heat coming from within.
Then you just have to feed it slowly and ensure the pile doesn’t dry out or get too wet; for it to yield its bounties soon enough.
It will be a hive of activity from the day it is installed, through to the day it is finally turned out and used around the garden, or in the potting shed. A haven for wildlife over its lifespan. So any new garden will need one and it should be one of the first things you install.
Rewilding a garden can start with adding a simple compost heap.