Create a leaf-mould cage

Activity
Create a leaf mold cave
3-4 hours
Autumn
Not too tricky

Use leaves to make a warm and cosy winter sleepover for hedgehogs and toads. Create a storage cage where you will turn all the raked leaves from your garden into luscious leaf-mould. Why do it? Leaf-mould is one of nature's gifts in the garden, so don't just hoover your leaves up and chuck them in the rubbish! Let's use them for nature! The fact that they can be a hibernation home too makes them doubly valuable.

Create a leaf mold cave

Step-by-step guide

1

Create your leaf-mould bin.

At its simplest, just drive four wooden stakes into the ground about 90cm (3 feet) apart in a square.

Top tip: Your bin will be more sturdy if you brace it around the top with old planks or posts, as shown in the diagram.

2

Add the chicken wire

Then wrap the chicken wire around them, hammering it taut to the posts using the hammer and U nails (your DIY store may call them 'staples' – they are just like a bent nail to pin wire to posts – a bag will only cost a couple of quid).

Always take care when using or cutting wire.

However, if the wire extends to the ground – as it is in most leaf-bins – creatures such as hedgehogs can’t get in and out. So the trick is to leave a 13cm gap under at least one side. Make sure there are no bits of sharp wire that will catch on animals as they crawl under.

3

Now fill your bin

Fill your bin with raked-up leaves in autumn. Some leaves rot more quickly than others - sycamore and walnut leaves are especially prone to going rather mushy, so shred them first or mix them in with leaves that decompose well such as oak, beech and hornbeam.

But put evergreen and conifer leaves in the compost bin.

4

Wait for your leaf-mould

You should have beautiful, grainy leaf-mould within a couple of years. It is an ideal ingredient in seed and potting compost mixes. Just be careful that you only dig it out from the pile when you are sure there are no creatures hibernating underneath.

5

What you'll see.

It is quite possible that creatures will get into your leaf pile without you knowing so you can, if you want, put a strip of sand along the ground along the front of the bin. You’ll then be able to see if there are little paw-prints there.

What you will need

  • 4m roll of chicken wire
  • Four 1.2m-long wooden stakes
  • Old planks (untanilised)
  • DIY kit: saw, bag of U nails, nails, hammer
  • Wirecutters
  • Measuring tape