Q&A: Getting rid of old, wet leaves

Q: Most of the beds and borders in our garden are still covered with old, wet leaves. It's a horrible job cleaning them up; is there anything we can do with them?

Spring raking

A: The best thing was to have raked them all up late last year and turned them into leafmould, which is ideal for incorporating into the soil. Obviously, it’s too late to do that and, as you say, by now those leaves are nothing but a soggy mush. Shovel them up and take them to the tip.

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This November, however, collect the leaves before they have time to accumulate, wet them and then stick the whole lot into a black plastic compost bag. Seal it, pop a few holes in it so the leaves don’t turn into just another slimy mess, and pop the bag outside, in a shady, sheltered spot, for a year or so.

If you’ve done the job right, when you next open the bag it will be filled with lovely, earthy leafmould ideal for adding to compost or for mulching the soil. If you haven’t, there’ll be that familiar – probably smelly – mush, which means another trip to the tip.

If you have space, build a bin – four posts in a square, with chicken wire surrounding it. Put the leaves into the container and keep adding to it. Some gardeners cover the top with old carpet or even a wooden lid (it helps stop leaves blowing away or getting too wet). Over time, they should decompose.