Time For The Big Leaf Harvest ~ The Gardener’s Gold


For the last week I’ve been out and about on woodland paths scooping up fallen leaves into big blue IKEA shopping sacks. This pursuit invites worried stares from passing dog walkers and the ingress of nosy dog noses into my bags of gatherings – presumably in hopes that I’ve also raked up decomposing animal parts, or at the very least, an interesting stick.

Two days ago, by such devices, I was nearly able to kidnap a very nice cockapoo, and after my exchange with its human companion, I rather wished I had. ‘They are lovely dogs,’ I say to the man as he closes in on me. ‘I wouldn’t know,’ he says dismissively. ‘All I know is it needs a lot of exercise.’ Well, I thought, such disgruntlement in the face of this good-hearted, intelligent canine whose cappuccino coloured face I am presently clutching (come home with me little woolly dog). I decided he must have been dragooned into enforced dog walking by a wife at work, or an aged mother-in-law – how else could one explain such sour reactions.

But back to the leaves. When I’ve filled two bags I haul them down the footpath to the allotment where I tip them into wire silos. After that it’s a question of waiting for them to rot down into leaf mould. Usually this takes about two years if you want dark crumbly loam. The process can be speeded up by shredding the leaves first, hence my collecting them on paths where people walk and mash them up. Oak, beech and hornbeam leaves are said to make the best leaf mould since they break down well. It also helps to turn the pile now and then and give it a watering if it looks like drying out.

There’s not much nutrient content in the finished product, but it helps retain moisture and is brilliant as a general soil conditioner, to pile round the roots of cane fruit and for mixing into potting compost. Last year I was also glad to use the half-rotted stuff as a mulch to stop the vegetables from baking in the heat wave. In this state, too, it can be used to cover bare earth over the winter. Always a good move if you want to encourage worm activity as every gardener does.

But obviously the best part about the leaves just now is their magnificent glow. At half past four yesterday as I left the allotment it was already heading into dusk, but the bird cherry was lighting up the place like a torch. And further along on the field path a beech hedge was floodlighting its garden. What a show. I took its photo, while making a note to return when all the leaves had fallen off. So much treasure for the taking.


copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

31 thoughts on “Time For The Big Leaf Harvest ~ The Gardener’s Gold

  1. What a wily woman getting walkers to tread leaves like grapes for your harvest – and dog napper in disguise to boot!
    P.s. I am flattening red and yellow leaves from my potted acers, in glycerine, as keepsakes of this lovely time of year – fingers crossed there is magic rather than mush in the offing

    1. Love it, Laura. Treading leaves like grapes. My aunt used to preserve sprays of copper beech in glycerine. I also seem to remember her laying them between sheets of tissue and brown paper under the carpet. Anyway, they came out wonderfully. Good luck with yours. Acers have the loveliest of leaves.

      1. Your aunt’s method takes ‘a carpet of leaves’ to a whole new level.
        Might get to photograph mine if successful – yellows apparently stay brighter than reds

  2. Ooh, we’re not quite there yet with our leaves, but you’ve made me look forward to the gathering. I love your photos; they are beautiful.

  3. Makes me wish for more deciduous trees here. My garden could do with some extra protection against the sun. We’re apparently going to have a very hot dry summer 🙁

  4. Gorgeous colours here Tish. I really like Beech hedges with their brown leaves throughout the winter. And such a shame you couldn’t kidnap the Cockapoo. They are such lovely friendly dogs.

  5. Had to look it up. A “blend” of English cocker and French (‘?) poodle. No wonder I’de never heard of it. An interesting, very “Entente cordiale” mix… 🙂

  6. Good ideas and wonderful taking care of your garden as you clean up the roads as well! Sorry you did not land that cockapoo…Maybe next time? Saving him or her from that grumpy thing… At least my dogs are good at digging as well, so you might get him or her to help you gardening too.

    1. My sister’s cockapoo also shreds cardboard magnificently – an ideal addition to the compost heap. Clearly I need a dog team at the allotment – diggers and shredders and all round good companions.

  7. Too bad about that grouch. I hope that’s not solely his doggie. The many facets of gardening, such as leaf collecting, both fascinate and exhaust me. I’ve dreamed of having a garden, but just don’t have the talent or motivation. Hence my decision to buy property deep in the woods.

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