4 June 2012

Autumn leaves

It's time to tidy the garden to allow it to rest over winter.  Today I collected the autumn leaves from underneath two large old pear trees.  As we have had so much rain lately I've been unable to get out there and take care of the leaves and there was quite a thick layer.  If I just left them alone most of the grass underneath the trees would have died back.  Now that might have been great for the trees as grass is very competitive but not so good for the aesthetics of my garden.  So I compromise.  I allow the last couple of weeks of leaf fall to remain underneath the tree and I remove all the rest and place it on the garden,  Today it mostly went underneath my fruit trees where it will  be eaten by earthworms until it has all been transformed into healthy soil.  My patch of ground is clay based and indeed had only the tiniest layer of soil sitting atop the clay when I first began gardening here nearly 23 years ago.
Now I can dig a spade's depth in most places and in the vegetable garden much more. 

I've let the chooks into the garden too, to scratch around and add their manure to the process. These are new chickens, one bantam lavender leghorn hen and a trio of Japanese bantams which are so tiny they are almost bantam bantams.  I haven't yet seen them give a good scratch but my gosh they are pretty.

I really like Campines, an old breed of fowl which are hard to find these days.  I had a lovely trio for a few years but foxes managed to pick them off one by one.  I keep them safely penned at night but sometimes other people relax the shutting up at night rule and they disappear.  I'm determined to find some more and begin again. These are a 3/4 fowl, so not quite a bantam but not a big full size bird either.  They lay a very nice size white egg which tastes delicious.

Back to worms.  I lived in Toronto Canada for a couple of years and it always amazed me the amount of leaves that the deciduous trees produced.  After leaf fall the council would come along and collect the leaves and take them off somewhere.  To compost or not I never did try to find out.  I had a tiny little garden and I soon found that if you didn't remove the leaves they just accumulated and smothered the plants you wanted to grow.  There seemed to be no earthworm activity at all and no earthworms in the soil when I dug it over.  I was told earthworms were not native to the area and the forests and evolved to thrive with a deep layer of leaf litter.  I found this article today which explains what has happened in some of the forests where earthworms have found a way in.  Devastation is seems.  We humans keep being reminded that we can change many things for the better but also the reverse is true.

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