Autumn’s colourful cloak diminishes with every chilly gust, sending blazing leaves swirling on the breeze, while down below, diamond lilies sparkle and spring bulbs begin their slow march to glory, sending out roots into the cold earth.
It may feel like the year is drawing to a close, but there’s still one or two really worthwhile jobs to be doing in the garden. Those autumn leaves make a wonderful addition to the compost heap – especially when they’re finely chopped or shredded and mixed with softer, more nutrient-rich materials like kitchen waste or grass clippings*. It’s a happy accident of gardening that the easiest way to pick them up is to mow them up with a lawnmower. Late November sees me reaching deep into borders where leaves choke low-growing plants like dwarf cyclamen, pulling the leaves onto the lawn.
It must be a weird sight, a lawn covered in fallen leaves and border debris. But it’s well worth it. The mower (on a medium height setting, collection bag attached) does a fantastic job of shredding the leaves; which helps them break down better into delightful crumbly compost, for two reasons. One is that tearing them up gives all the beneficial microorganisms lots of extra surface area to get working on, so they can turn the leaves into humus. The second is that the addition of grass clippings provides extra nitrogen to help break down the carbon-rich leaves (see my previous blog)
And a third reason to do this mad lawn exercise… you’ll probably want to go over the lawn again to get rid of absolutely all the bits (best mow in the opposite direction). By the time you’ve done that, the lawn will be looking great, and you won’t have to cut it again until the new year. Hurrah!
*If you don’t have a lawn, but you do have lots of leaves, I think it’s worth mixing them with pelleted chicken manure or a compost maker when you add them to your compost heap, and wet them gently if they’re dry.