Turn fallen leaves into valuable leaf mould compost with Monty Don’s top tips

Leaf mould is good for your garden. Use Monty Don’s advice to make yours

Monty Don's tips on leaf mould
(Image credit: James Pritchett on Unsplash)

Think fallen leaves are just a nuisance, covering lawns and beds, and making paths and patios slippery. We’ve got news for you. What seems like garden waste can be turned into leaf mould: a valuable soil conditioner and mulch.

No lesser gardening expert than Monty Don advises performing this useful transformation, and where Monty leads we are happy to follow. Further inspiration to get on with the job? The fact that leaves need clearing up in any case as leaving them isn’t good for the lawn, and they can make surfaces hazardous to walk on. Moreover (and not to be sniffed at) making leaf mould will also save you money on store-bought compost.

For Monty’s top tips all you need to do is scroll down, and you can check out our special feature on to how to make leaf mould, too.

How to make leaf mould: Monty Don’s top tips

1. Collecting fallen leaves is a project rather than a one-off task, so you are going to have to keep at it. It’s best done when they’re damp, Monty says, but don’t worry if the times when you can gather aren’t those when there’s been rain as you can wet the leaves (see below).

2. If you’re asking why wet leaves are good, Monty has the science bit. Leaves mostly decompose by fungal action rather than bacterial, he explains. However, this means they’ll take a long time to turn into leaf mould, so this is a way to speed things up.

3. The other key to quicker decomposition? Chop the leaves up, Monty says. You can use your lawn mower to do this, and this will do the collecting for you, too. There is a possible hitch, though, as wet leaves can clog up the mower. Monty’s solution is to sweep and rake dry leaves into a line, then mow them, then soak them later using a hose. 

4. Monty wets the leaves where he stores them, which is in a specially made bay. One of these is a piece of cake to add to your garden. You just need to make a frame using chicken wire around garden stakes or canes. 

5. Don’t have the space for a leaf bay? Don’t worry, Monty has the answer. Just put your chopped-up leaves into a black bin bag. You’ll need to have made some drainage holes in the bottom, then you just have to soak the leaves, let the water run out, and store the bag somewhere. 

6. All you need to do now is... nothing. The leaves will become leaf mould over the next six months, Monty advises. You can even use them in spring when they’re part decomposed as a mulch, he reveals. Magic!

Need to get clued up about using mulch in your garden too? Head over to our ultimate guide to mulching for all the expert advice you need. 

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