Full Monty

The main in­gre­di­ent of leaf­mould is freely avail­able ev­ery­where right now, says Monty. So, why isn’t any­one out­side gath­er­ing up ev­ery fallen leaf?

Gardeners' World - - Contents -

I love leaves on trees but I also like them on the ground. Which is just as well, be­cause they are now fall­ing like fat con­fetti as the wind whips across Long­meadow, ruf­fling and flick­ing the branches like a shaken rug. But by Christ­mas ev­ery last fallen leaf will have been gath­ered, mown and stored in our leaf­mould bay, which will be gently steam­ing and con­vert­ing as a mil­lion fungi put their di­ges­tive sys­tems to work. (Do fungi have di­ges­tive sys­tems? Prob­a­bly not, but you get the gist.) By next au­tumn, this will all be soft, black leaf­mould, clean to han­dle and smelling sweetly of a sunny wood­land floor. It will ra­di­ate an aura of health and good­ness that matches its per­for­mance in the gar­den. We use leaf­mould as an es­sen­tial part of our pot­ting com­post mix, and as the per­fect soil con­di­tioner and mulch for all wood­land plants − at least half the plant­ing at Long­meadow is wood­land. In short, it is gold dust and we never have too much, so we take the business of gath­er­ing fallen leaves as se­ri­ously as mak­ing good com­post. So why do so few peo­ple do this com­pared with com­post mak­ing? Ev­ery gar­den has leaves in it at this time of year and there are leaves in ev­ery street. Ev­ery­one could gather them up and store them, chopped up or not, ei­ther in a ded­i­cated con­tainer or sim­ply in a bin bag or two. Why don’t all gar­den­ers − good and tal­ented at so many as­pects of hor­ti­cul­ture − do this as a mat­ter of course? It is one of the great hor­ti­cul­tural mys­ter­ies of our age, and in fu­ture years an­thro­pol­o­gists will look back over our trou­bled times and agree that the rot re­ally set in when we stopped mak­ing leaf­mould. Stranger still, why don’t lo­cal coun­cils do this with all the leaves from their parks and streets? And if they did not wish to use the leaf­mould in their own gar­dens (though you have to won­der why that would be), then they could make it avail­able to any­one who wanted it for free. To not use it is such a waste and so at odds with the whole tenor of mod­ern life when we are try­ing to re­cy­cle and con­serve as much as pos­si­ble, and make our gar­dens as healthy as we can. I sus­pect it started with the rise of the gar­den cen­tre in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when for the first time plants be­came widely avail­able al­ready pot­ted up in com­post. Un­til then, most plants were bare root and had to be planted out or pot­ted on. No one sold pot­ting com­post, so you had to make your own, which we all did, us­ing leaf­mould, soil, gar­den com­post and per­haps, shame­fully, some peat. We all now know that peat is a no-no but, in any event, leaf­mould makes an al­most per­fect sub­sti­tute. How­ever, although I keep bang­ing on about home-made pot­ting com­post, I am fully aware that very few peo­ple make any. Even so, I find if you add a mea­sure of leaf­mould to pro­pri­etary bark-based, multi-pur­pose com­post you greatly im­prove it. For the record, this is how I do it. Rake or sweep up leaves. If it is dry, take them to where they are to be stored and spread them out in a windrow along the ground. If it is wet, do the same on a hard sur­face like a path. Set the mower blades higher than nor­mal and mow them, which will chop and col­lect in one easy process. This works fine on a brick or paved path and the chop­ping greatly speeds up the con­ver­sion process. Then store them in a bay − chicken wire is ideal − with a wide sur­face area for ex­po­sure to rain and air, or put them into bin bags pierced with drainage holes to let out ex­cess wa­ter. Make sure they are thor­oughly wet when stored and check ev­ery month or so to see if they are dry­ing out − the con­ver­sion to crumbly leaf­mould is much faster if they re­main moist. Do noth­ing else at all while the fungi qui­etly do their thing. So, go and gather ye leaves while ye may. It re­ally does make sense.

Leaf­mould is gold dust and we never have too much

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.