Sunday, 21 November 2010

What to do with all those Leaves in the Garden

Making Leaf Mould

We have been making leaf mould in our garden and have done so for the last couple of years. It is an easy gardening activity for children; one that gets them into the garden in the autumn. Leaf mould is organic and involves no carbon footprint. It is simply a case of raking up the leaves, bagging them and storing them, and then waiting.

Here’s how we do it. The garden has leaves mainly from Silver Birch, Goat Willow, Oak and a little bit of Acer. We rake them into piles and bag them up. I know that many people use black plastic sacks. We recycle and use the plastic coverings you get when clothes are returned from the dry cleaners. We like it best if the leaves are dry as they are not so cold to handle. As water is an essential ingredient for leaf mould we place couple of holes in the plastic bag and the add water.

A couple of times I have left some bags of leaves under shrubs and find that as the plastic begins to disintegrate and worms worm their way into the leafy mixture the leaves return themselves to the garden with very little help.

The filled sacks then spend the following 18 months in an old dustbin in the garden. We spread the leaf mould out onto the soil early spring as a kind of mulch. This is another gardening job for the children help with. I have also sieved the leaf mould and used it with potting compost for transplanting seedlings.

Last years leaf mould
 The people at Gardening Organic have more detailed advice about what to do.

But why oh why is it called leaf mould? There is nothing messy or mouldy about it. It doesn’t smell and once rotted down turns into a lovely friable material. The name conveys up images of fungus and stained walls and must surely put some people off. How about calling it leaf compost or leafy soil?  Love to hear your suggestions.

Let me know what you do with the leaves in your garden. Please please don’t say you take your leaves to the local rubbish tip. We find it so simple to recycle them inside our garden and hope you can too.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The London Wetland Centre: A Great Garden in the Heart of London.

If you hadn’t thought of a wetland as a garden, then please think again. All the elements of natural beauty, native planting, seasonal interest, open space, and water are present in a wetland. For me and for my son the London Wetland Centre is a fantastic garden. We had one of our many visits there this week and I thought I would share with you some of the simple pleasures he loves there.

  • The trail of the duck feet marked on the ground leading to explore the children’s adventure play area.
  • The mock duck nest and its eggs, together with the ‘dinosaur’ bones.
  • The new webcam set up in a pond, filming both on top and under the water. He spent ages operating this, focusing, zooming in and out, and looking at the screen to see what he had found.
  • The pathways that lead off the main pathways and then rejoin later on.
  • The willow dens, both when they are covered in leaves and in their winter state.
  • The foot operated water pump in the new rain garden.
And for me there is always something new. This time it was the new rain garden. Opened by Alan Titchmarsh in September it shows how gardens can be sustainable by capturing and using rainfall. It forms a series of rain gardens, fed from the roof of a pavilion.  This is made from a converted cargo container and  provides living space for animals and insects in its walls and a green roof. There is a prism to view the  green roof.

I do not have a full photo of the garden to show you as was so bowled over by the fact that a flower meadow was still flowering in November that I concentrated on the flowers.  I have since learnt that they are from Pictorial Meadows. They provide an unique colourful meadow-flower seed mixes that rapidly produce a naturally vibrant display with an extended flowering season. The mixes contain no grass and all the green foliage you see are part of the plants.

So Wetlands are not all about birds, though there is presently a bittern at the London Wetland Centre and plenty of other wildfowl to see and things to do.  And, oh yes, there are also at least the six water voles we saw at the Wetland Centre in Arundel this summer.

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