Thursday, 31 October 2013

Leaf mold

Much of this afternoon was spent both in and on a pile of leaf mold. A lovely, deep pile of well-rotted leaf mold – thick, chocolately stuff, the consistency of a really good chocolate brownie, the kind that makes your mouth go all funny and sends a little shiver down your spine. The kind that offers your teeth the resistance of the barest hint of crust on the outside but rewards the persistance of your masticationary efforts with a meltingly gooey interior. The word ‘unctuous’ gets a bad press but was surely invented for this stuff – in fact, I’m not sure that anyone could ever have really appreciated the richenss of that adjective without having been here, on this pile at this moment, watching the shining blade of the shovel carve tranche after tranche out of the heap, hearing it flop wetly to the ground, crumbling as it falls. There has been rain of late in volume, and were I in particular mood I could wish the texture more friable. Candidly, I rather suspect the inclusion of grass during the incorporation of the heap, but I cannot say. I was not here at that time. But what this compost lacks in crumble it more than makes up for in luxury, and it will be more than adequate for purpose.

This lot is bound for the rose garden, to act as a mulch in order to supress weeds, and also as a soil conditioner to lighten the clay. In this the gardener will be given invaluable help from the host of worms which poplulate the rich humus, as they do the hard work of mixing the new layer organic matter with the soil. Before the mulch can be applied, I remove fallen leaves from the beds with the aid of a powered blower. These leaves will not make it into the main pile, instead meeting their fate on the bonfire and thereby minimising the proliferation of rose blackspot (the fungus Diplocarpon rosae). Once the beds are clear, applicaton of the fresh leaf mold involves accurate aiming of the barrow, and the use of a long-tined compost fork – by far the most efficient tool for spreading the mulch between the stems of the rose plants.

I have posted before (in Leaf fall and Cloth of Gold) on the wonder of leaves. As I write this on Hallowe’en, and in spite of the fierce winds at the beginning of the week, we have not yet entered the peak of the leaf raking season, with many trees keeping a stubborn grasp on their foliage. But it’s surely a matter of days if not weeks before leaves cover our gardens again, and it’s as well to have a plan of what to do with them once they’ve been coralled and collected. It would, after all, be criminal to let all that potential goodness go to waste.