Tag Archives: autumn

Making leaf mould

The last few days has seen a massive leaf drop here so that means it is time to make leaf mould. Collecting leaves and making that wonderful soil conditioner for next year really does mark the changing seasons.

The common advice is to use a container made from chicken wire strung around four wooden poles which are knocked into the ground. Like some many other pieces of received gardening wisdom it is not the best way. The problem is that the leaves at the edges dry out which really slows down the fungal rotting process.

Over the years I tried several different methods and found the easiest and cheapest was to use builder’s big bags, or bulk bags, that are used to deliver sand and gravel. The advantages are that they are free and stop the wind from drying out the contents.

Do not cover the top; let the rain keep the leaves wet. This is different to making ‘normal’ compost because leaf mould is a fungal process which needs to be wet.

There is no need to use any of the magic additives on the market or to add anything other than leaves. You can shred them if you wish, and that certainly speeds up the rotting process, but just plain old leaves in a big bag are all you need.

There is also a lot of discussion about how long it takes for the leaves to rot down. Some say 2-3 years but I usually get usable leaf mould in 12-18 months. It does depend on the leaves as some rot faster than others.

Now is also a good time to use leaf mould on the garden. Spread a thick layer over beds to stop winter rain compacting the soil. Do not worry if the leaves are not totally rotted as worms will help incorporation and rotting will continue so by next spring you will have a bed of wonderful soil ready for sowing carrots and other crops.

Success and failure, another gardening year

It has been a mild and gentle autumn which means plants have been growing well including the weeds. We got the planning right this year and sowed winter salad crops in September. The result is a supply of fresh cut and come again leaves from the polytunnel. There are also over wintering hearted lettuce that look the best ever. The winter lettuce varieties we use are Erika, Valdor, Winter Density and new this year  Winter Gem (Vaila.)

As an experiment there are also a row of carrots in the tunnel. They germinated well but remain very small and I doubt they will come to much. The same happened to the spinach (Giant Winter) it is there but small.

We had looked forward to a huge crop of sweet corn this year but the warm damp weather caused most of the cobs to rot on the plants. The leeks (Musselburgh) have a lot of rust on the leaves but it does not seem to be affecting the harvest. This was yet another season of moulds and most of the autumn fruiting raspberries (Autumn Bliss) rotted on the vines.

In the rest of the garden the Brussels Sprouts are cropping well and since the first real frost they are sweet and delicious. In the same bed is purple spouting which also looks good. The bed is kept covered with enviromesh not because there are any cabbage white butterflies around to lay eggs but to keep the pheasants off as they totally destroyed the spouting earlier this year.

Talking of  cabbage whites some cabbage plants were transplanted into a bed with free space and not covered. After a few days they were attacked by caterpillars (worms in the US) and looked like they would not survive. The caterpillars were picked off and the bed covered with net. We are now eating the cabbage as the hearts are fine.

A similar thing happened with some cauliflower plants. They did not do well after transplanting and were just left in the bed but are now producing some very welcome late caulis. It just goes to show that you should never give up!

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We are picking  lettuce, leeks, parsnips, celeriac, cabbage, cauliflower and carrots as well as eating the frozen veg from earlier in the year and potatoes in store. There is a good supply of apples but some have scab. They do not look very nice but once peeled they are delicious.

Now is the time for seed catalogues to come out and plan for next year, who knows what that will bring as the weather is so unpredictable now.

An early autumn?

We have been eating sweet corn for a couple of weeks now, that is 3-4 weeks earlier than usual. A lot of other crops are finished and removed much earlier than in previous years and it makes me think that autumn is earlier this year. Or should I say that crops have peaked earlier? Is anybody having a similar experience?