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  1. Leaf mould is easy to make, and should always be a free resource.  It will take a year or two to make but once started it will carry on all by itself!!
     
    The method is so easy:
    1. Collect a mixture of deciduous autumn leaves.  They will be brown and dead.  Don't use evergreen leaves such as pine, conifers, laurel, or holly, or leaves from beside roads because they may contain contaminants like diesel, oil, tyre rubber and other road pollutants.
    2. Water them well to help them rot.
    3. Pack the leaves into a suitable container - this can be bin bags, old compost bags or a mesh bin.  Stab the bag a couple of times with a garden fork to let some air in.
    4. Completely ignore them for a year or two, except for turning the bag very occasionally.
    5. Use the leaf mould.  This can be used on any soil type and at any time of year. 
    How it works: 
     
    Autumn leaves are rotted down mainly by the slow, cool action of fungi - instead of the quicker acting bacteria that are responsible for composting. This is why autumn leaves in quantity are best recycled separately in a leafmould heap.
     
    Wonderful facts about leaf mould
    • it's free
    • it's easy to make
    • it avoids the use of bonfires to get rid of excess leaf matter
    • it saves having to use peat resources
    • it's clean and easy to handle
    • it's good for the soil
    • it reduces the need for watering
    Leaves and wildlife
    Leave drifts of leaves under hedges and out of the way places well alone as hedgehogs and other creatures may be hibernating there.
     
  2.  
    Plant this arrangement for a splash of winter colour
     
    New Tub
    You will need:
    1 x Swiss Mountain Pine
    3 x red hardy mini cyclamen
    12 x miniature tulip bulbs 'Taco' (Clusiana variety)
    6 x violas 'Orange Jump Up'
     
    Hexagonal wooden planter
     
    Time taken: 2 hours
     
    Approximate cost: £40
    1) Use the planter itself to measure out and thoroughly mix together equal portions of soil-based compost and a soil conditioner such as mushroom compost, adding a generous sprinkling of slow-release shrub fertiliser.
     
    2) Centre an empty pot the same size as the mountain pine rootball in the soil and build up around the sides so the soil level is 2.5cm (1") from the top edge of the planter.  Water well and allow to settle before carefully removing the pot leaving a well in the planter.
     
    3) Position the mountain pine in the centre of the planter and firm in well.  Deeply plant the tulips, evenly spaced around the main plant, 2 per side.
     
    4) Plant the cyclamen so the flowerheads peer through the open habit of the pine.  Position the violas 1 per corner and plant.
     
    5) Finally add several good handfuls of compost around all the plants and firm in well before watering and placing in a sheltered position.   
     
    empty pot in tub
     
    pine+cyclamen 
     
    I love the contrasting foliage of the pine needles, variegated cyclamen and the bright green of the violas.  The flowers are so vibrant in their not-quite-clashing red-orange-purple combination.
     
    contrasting foliage viola red cyclamen