Garden lore

“(Gardening) is not graceful, and it makes one hot; but it is a blessed sort of work, and if Eve had had a spade in Paradise and had known what to do with it, we should not have had all that sad business of the apple.”

Elizabeth, Countess von Arnim, (1866-1941).

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Autumn leaves
Most of us are probably at peak leaf fall at the moment. One more strong wind and they will all be on the ground where they will turn uniformly brown and sludgy. Do not think of fallen leaves as a bother but as a resource. Never tell me you burn your leaves.

That is just bad and wasteful. Leaf litter is not as nutritious and balanced as good compost but it has merit and should be regarded as an important part of the cycle of nature.

The simplest method is to use a leaf rake to scoop all the leaves back discreetly under the trees where they can gently break down to humus with the winter rains and microbial action. Come spring time, you can rake them back out to use as garden mulch if you wish.

Dried leaves can be put through a composting process where they count as adding carbon content.

In our vegetable garden, which has a couple of very large deciduous trees which drop a prodigious amount of autumn leaves, we use a simple circle of chicken netting tied together. All the leaves get piled into it and left to decompose. It stops the birds from making a mess of the piles.

It pays to clear fallen leaves out from fishponds. Rotting leaves will increase the nutrient levels, leading to later problems with algae growth and, in really bad cases, can kill the fish by reducing oxygen levels as they break down.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.