Brown Gold

As billions of leaves accumulate in gardens, parks, driveways and roadsides people view them from two perspectives (1a; 1b).

Leaves (1a)
Leaves (1b)

Perspective one views them as unsightly heaps, slip hazards, drain cloggers, destroyers of lawns, blockers of car vents, gutter obstructors and driving hazards.
Perspective two views them as the raw material of leaf mould which is a material that makes an excellent soil conditioner after a period of two years.  It also helps soil to retain moisture and encourages earthworm activity. Leaf mould by itself contains few nutrients but if it is mixed with horticultural sand, soil and home-made compost it makes a rich potting compost.
The leaves of pine which are called pine needles make an excellent acidic leaf mould which can be used to grow acid-loving plants such as rhododendrons and azaleas.

Bagged leaves (2)

To make leaf mould now the leaves should be raked and stuffed into polythene bags. Holes should be made all around the bags to allow air to circulate in them (2). The bags should then be stored away in a shady part of the garden for two years for fungi to break them down into dark, crumbly leaf mould.
They can be used after one year, however, as a mulch around plants to conserve moisture, suppress weeds and eventually break down into soil conditioner.

Leafmould container (3a)
Leafmould container (3b)

Some of the leaves should also be bagged and left near the compost containers.  These will constitute the brown or carbon element of home-made compost.  Good compost will result if equal amounts of brown and green materials are added at the same time.