Leaf fall

by Adam Pasco

A sharp cold spell followed by wet weather has left my lawn carpeted with leaves. At least they've all fallen at once this year, rather than dropping slowly over many weeks.

Adam Pasco mowing autumn leavesA sharp cold spell followed by wet weather has left my lawn carpeted with leaves. At least they've all fallen at once this year, rather than dropping slowly over many weeks. This way I can collect them in one go, and get the job done, rather than have to repeat the process several times.

The autumn free fall is a real bonus. Leaves rot down into gorgeous compost, so I'll make the most of my free supply. On lawns they're easy to collect. I simply raise the cutting height on my mower blades then run the mower up and down to collect them (thanks by the way, to my son Luke, 11, for taking the photo). The great thing about using a mower rather than simply raking them up is that they get chopped up in the process.

I remember the late Geoff Hamilton actually collecting leaves fallen from trees along his road, so keen was he to make the most of Nature's bounty. Well, why leave all this lovely material for the council to collect when you could use it in your garden?

Shredded leaves will rot down far more quickly than those left intact. Small quantities can be mixed in with other waste in one of my compost bins, but a load like this can be stacked on its own. In the past I've made a leaf bin using four corner posts and chicken wire, but a roll of chicken wire is quite expensive.

A good alternative is to save large compost bags during the year and fill these with moist autumn leaves. I then tie their tops to prevent the contents drying out, punch a few small holes in the sides, and stack them out of the way. Within a year the contents will have rotted down into lovely leaf mould, which I usually use as a mulch. I wonder if there are different recipes for making the perfect leaf mould?

What about leaves elsewhere in the garden? I'm now a fan of the electric garden vac, which sucks up leaves from paths and between plants in the borders. For years I was dubious of the value of these gadgets, but am now a firm convert. My latest model actually shreds the leaves as they pass into the collecting bag, which is a real bonus.

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Talkback: Leaf fall
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Gardeners' World Web User 02/12/2007 at 06:55

This comment may come way too late but I think this comment is helpful. In 2007 June issue page 15, Adam cooked asparagus peas by steaming. In my country [tropical Malaysia] we eat them as salad, stirfry lightly or use them raw for dips. For salad we use them raw and thinly sliced. try them with a Thai dressing. They can be used in all sort of stir fries. You may want try them with garlic,a few anchovy fillet, chilles (optional)a little sugar and a little rice wine. They need to be sliced. For dips, use them whole. They have to be eaten young. Over here we loved them. They are called 'kacang botol' : bottled nuts[Malay langauge]. Enjoy!

Gardeners' World Web User 30/12/2007 at 11:38

I am lucky enough to have my garden in the last natural beech copse in Portsmouth. This stretches over several gardens and leaves blow from all directions. I have composted leaves for many years now and beech takes at least 3 or 4 years to rot. Last year I filled 2 green compost bins with leaves to keep badgers from ripping the black bags I had always used. I left the lids off so the rain could get in (what a summer we had for that) but they haven't rotted very well at all. Any suggestions for at least 16 bags a year. I'm running out of space!

Gardeners' World Web User 07/06/2008 at 19:31

I've got a gravel garden and the fallen leaves etc. stay where they land till late May. I'm sure that this practice is at the heart of why I have so many beetles and spiders (they're the good guys?) hunting in the summer.

A child's plastic rake, a trowel to loosen any weeds, a bucket and a leathery bottom for shuffling between plants clears the leaves from late spring gravel.

Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:30

'Green Issues' At the age of 76 I find that the 2 hours I spend chasing my motor mower around the grass is as much as I can manage, to use a hand mower is unthinkable. With over 200 feet of 8 feet high beech hedge to trim hand clipping is out of the question. With 3 venerable oak trees shedding leaves, leaf gathering with a rake even when helped by an enthusiastic granddaughter is not practical. My one attempt at making a compost heap generated complaints about mice from my next door neighbour. However to off-set all this, the leaves of the oak trees and hedge absorb much more carbon dioxide than my highly efficient motor mower produces. My hedge trimmer is battery operated. My leaf vacuum/blower is mains electric. The local council collects garden waste fortnightly and kitchen waste (cooked and raw) weekly and composts it much more efficiently than I can. As my grandmother used to say "There are more ways than one to kill the cat".