Most garden trimmings should go in the compost, but thick branches and some leaves take forever to break down. Leaves are best composted separately to make leaf mould, and you can put some branches through a chipper but, if they’re a little too thick for that, and a bonfire is out of the question, then it looks as if all you’ve got left is a trip to the dump.
But how about a dead hedge? These days, much emphasis is placed on dead hedges as wildlife havens and for conservation. The Roseberry House Project in Dulwich Park has one, made up from trees cleared to make an educational allotment. And on Thursday 15th September, in Whitehouse Woods, Lea Valley and Waltham BCTV will be cutting down holly and making a dead hedge to act as a barrier around an area of regeneration.
However, dead hedges have been used for centuries. A strong one, 3 ½ feet high would, according to Arthur Young—writer, farm manager and, later, the first Secretary of the Board of Agriculture, who wrote up his Month's Tour to Northhamptonshire, Leicestershire etc in 1791—cost ½d a yard.
Useful as stock barriers, windbreaks or, possibly more likely in the garden, something rustic to hide an eyesore, they are a great place to put slow-composting material that would otherwise create lumps in your compost bin for some time to come.
Over at Hedgewizard’s Diary, he’s found it a very good place to get rid of brambles (too prickly for composting) and lengths of ivy (survives rather too well in the bin). And his post is the one to read for instructions and photos.
Meanwhile, as an alternative to a pile of leaves in the corner, you could make a leaf fence.
Below is a video from David Epstein of Growing Wisdom, who talks to Scott LaFleur of the New England Wildflower Society about making a leaf fence, which can even support plants or grow into a children’s fort. For written instructions, visit NewEnglandWild.org.