When it comes to garden alchemy, leaf-mould is one of the easiest and simplest bits of magic.
It improves the texture of any soil, because it makes for happy worms. It also makes the best, most beautiful dark crumbly mulch, and (if you leave it 2-3 years) is a really good medium for seed-sowing. The challenge then, is creating enough of it, and fast enough to satisfy an impatient gardener like myself. The first thing is to get more leaves, as the pile rots down to about a quarter of its original mass. The internets are replete with info on ‘the best leaves’ but common sense will have you steering clear of evergreens and anything diseased, and chopping up anything thick or coarse with the mower. In fact, chopping all your leaves up (coarse or otherwise) as fine as possible will help, as will turning the pile every few weeks. It’s important to keep things moist, so add water if things sound or feel crispy. My bags are stacked on top of each-other and the bottom ones are ready first, so weighting the heap down creates faster leaf-mould. I would mulch the entire garden with this stuff if only I could make enough; if I had the space, I would replace my usual multiple plastic-bags-with-holes system with a large builders bag, or even better, two enormous compost bays, for once you’ve got a system going, it’s quantity rather than speed that you’ll be hankering after.