There are a lot of trees in the Priory gardens. Six very big oak trees, six big weeping willows, two large ash trees, nigh on twenty alder, half a dozen hornbeam and then various fruit trees, shrubs, hedges and specimen trees. In addition there are trees aplenty in the surrounding fields and on the driveway and many, many more along the northern border of the gardens: the river bank.
Part of the north lawn.
You can imagine then how much leaf falls, or is blown, into the garden. That’s right. A lot.
Leaves blown into submission.
During the first autumn at the Priory, I raked up as many leaves as I could and wheel-barrowed them out to some chicken-wire leaf bins I had made near the driveway. I did this day after day after day. I became a grandmaster at leaf-raking. A leaf-raking virtuoso. A leaf-raking wunderkind.
Leaves raked into submission
The following year I was able to bring some heavy guns to bear on leaf-mould production.
Leaves mown into submission
For a start, I had the ride-on mower. This not only swept up large swathes of leaf (while I inspected my fingernails and looked up at pretty clouds), it shredded them too, speeding up their breakdown.
My second big leaf-mould production aid was a powerful Stihl leaf blower. I am now able to blow leaves out of the drainage ditches, off paths and beds and onto the lawns from where they can be either raked up or ‘mown-up’. (I try and keep the leaves out of the ditches as I don’t want them being washed out into the ponds. The latter are silted up enough).
The Stihl is so powerful, I have inadvertently lifted chunks of tarmac with it.
As I’ve written elsewhere, I currently use two of the Priory’s seven compost bins for leaf mould. But I’m short on composting space and so yesterday I quickly had to make a chicken-wire leaf mould container.
Not a thing of great beauty but with the Devil snapping at my hindmost, I had to quickly get it built.
Easily made from four posts and a length of chicken wire, this temporary bin will hold a remarkable amount. I will dismantle it in a few weeks when there is room once again in the compost bins.
I only have one available bin for leaf at the moment, while the bin on the right still holds last year’s.
You’ll have to take my word that this stuff is full of worms. With the recent frosts they’ve dived for cover. Run silent, run deep. Each year, I buy in several cubic metres of mushroom compost, as a soil improver and mulch. But, given that I have a full bin (five feet x eight feet x three feet) of compost and a full bin of leaf mould, I think this year I won’t need to. Maybe, for the first time, I will be self-sufficient in compost and ‘mould. If that’s the case all that raking might just be worth it.