December Column: Homegrown Gardener

December 07 2012

December Column: Homegrown Gardener

Hellebores give us a gentle reminder, in the new year, of colours in the garden, which calls to mind preventative action to be taken in December.

Cut back all leaves from the plant and bin them or burn them, do not compost them. Cutting back the leaves helps prevent the black spot fungus from developing, and also combats a virus known as the Black Death. Also, I read, removal of the leaves dissuades mice from sheltering and attacking the new shoots.

In spring it is recommended to mulch the plants with bark, to prevent rain from splashing from the ground and transmitting the damaging spores. Amazing what I keep learning!

Autumn, and leaves begin to fall. As I have mentioned previously we have apple, plum and pear trees in the garden and they have all shed their leaves. Pear leaves are a problem because they seem to stay wet and lie flat on the ground. Apple leaves are dry and crinkled, plum leaves are small and no problem.

I clear the leaves on a regular basis. I have a big plastic rake which makes short work of then into piles. I dump them in a shallow trench and about once a month I turn the pile and add moisture to keep them damp. This time next year I will have a small amount of a fine black residue, about four large buckets full. This is quite nutritious and I mix it with spent compost and add it to tubs etc. Many people use black bags for leaves but I do not find this successful. As long I get something for nothing a little effort is worth it.           

Leaves are trembling on the bough

Waiting for the autumn fall

Having spent their natural life now

Apple, pear and hawthorn, small

Soon the carpet masks the grasses

Covering the blades of green

Nature knows the time that passes

Removing all that we have seen

Then let’s look for signs of life and

Searching branches far and near

Realise what is to hand

The start of another gardening year.

Do you make compost? Something very necessary for the garden.  I find great pleasure in creating good compost, useful for improving the soil, and adding to spent commercial compost. The fact that it comes free, just by using all the waste foliage, grass and kitchen vegetable remains gives it a value.
It takes two years for it to become friable and moist.After the first year I turn it into a second bay and cover it, and then start again in the first bay.
The pleasure of digging it out (apart from the backache) and working it into the soil in the beds and borders is immense.