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November Garden Chores

I may be odd, but I like late autumn. I love the smell of leaf bonfires (although I do other things, more environmentally friendly, with mine). I really appreciate the opportunity to have a good clear-out in the garden, which otherwise would disappear in an overgrown tangle of neglected shrubs and roses. November was created, I’m sure, to remind me to get my bulbs, which have been spread in packets all over the garage floor, much to husband’s annoyance, planted without further delay. And the white covering of frost on the pantiles of the garage across the garden, assures me that in a week or two I may be able, with a clear conscience, to leave outside chores behind for another year and get on with all those inside jobs that have been accumulating for months.
We have five acres of deciduous leaves at the Patch, far too many to make into leaf mould. Now the wood has grown up, those likely to spoil the grass rides and other mown areas are raked up, bundled into the trailer, and carted to parts of the wood where the trees have grown up. Already the ecology of the ground beneath these is starting to change to woodland wildflowers and interesting fungi, and spreading more leaves here helps to encourage this, altering the pH of the soil to make it more acid, a condition the oaks and birches among the plantation appreciate much more than the over-cultivated silt in which the young trees were planted twelve years ago.

Last autumn I started introducing English bluebells to the Patch. They are wonderful for seeding themselves and already those planted a year or two ago are spreading further down the wood. Next year we are hoping to hold a charity Bluebell Day in memory of our beautiful but wayward greyhound, Bluebell, who died at the sadly early age of four, eighteen months ago, despite a year of regular treks to her specialist near Newmarket, of a particularly nasty form of cancer. She has her own little part of Patch Wood which is covered with bluebells already, but I need to plant some more in another area – the bulbs have been waiting for over a month as every time I have the chance to get them in it’s been pouring with rain.

This week I started the mega clear-out of the garden at home, particularly the climbing roses, some of which are more than thirty years old. Up to now I have tied in new growth and cut out dead material, but this meant that all the flowers are now at the top of their supports and, with the current season’s prolific shoots, the plants resemble gigantic birds’ nests. As some of them are also starting to look past their sell-buy dates, I felt the only thing to do was to cut them hard back to a few feet above the ground. This means they will either be rejuvenated and produce a lot of new, young material which will flower low-down, or I will have killed them; they have two chances. Next spring, we shall see.

This garden produces too much rubbish at this time of year to compost all of it. Luckily, our County Council operates a scheme where garden refuse is taken to the local recycling plant, a card is stamped, and when you have collected five stamps you get a free bag of garden compost. This is far better made and more free of weeds and other nasties than any my small bins can produce, so I end up at this time of year with a lot of bags than make an ideal mulch at home, or top dressing for my asparagus at the Patch.
This morning there was the eagerly awaited sprinkling of white frost on the roofs around us. There are many climbing roses still to tackle, and I had allocated today for pressing on with them, but I prefer not to prune in frost, which has given me a day off. There is a Christmas Fayre at our vet’s surgery, so I will take the opportunity to take some of the ‘kids’ (six would be too many and cause chaos!) for a morning of socialising, while husband and I indulge in a mince pie or two and the hounds sample some most acceptable treats.

Yes, this is a good season if you’re prepared to enjoy it.

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