A long overdue catch-up

20 February 2020

This must be the longest gap we’ve ever had on this nominally-once-a-month blog, our apologies! We’ve still been working hard, but behind the scenes, without much to blog about the visible part of the gardens.

Here are a couple of photos of the gardens a few mornings ago, when the sun caught the ‘There but not there’ soldier on the bench:

And yes, there are an awful lot of brown stems around, beginning to look scruffy. We leave them through the worst of winter, for insects to shelter and hibernate in, and to protect the new shoots that come through before the worst frosts have finished. We’ll be starting to cut them down soon, and store them in a pile round the back for a couple more weeks to give insects a chance to come out of hibernation – and then they’ll be just what we need to add to the compost bins as ‘browns# along with an equal amount of ‘greens’ to start producing this year’s compost.

What we’ve mainly been doing throughout November and December is collecting leaves for the leaf mould bin. We only have one chance to do this, a few weeks during the autumn, when we gather as many bags as we can manage by raking them up in the gardens and from several residents’ gardens, and transporting them from Dingle Dell, where Alison and Michelle look after several gardens, and let us take many of the bags of leaves they collect during the autumn. We’re also very grateful to Leighton Buzzard the narrow gauge railway when they spend a morning removing leaves from the lines and platforms. This year they filled 87 bags for us! And we are very, very grateful to the Town Council, who sent their pick-up over, with two of the grounds staff to load it and help us move them from the car park to the work area behind the Bowls Club.

Then throughout January and February, we’ve been gradually moving the bags of leaves over to the leaf mould bin as the level drops – we hope to have this finished during March. At the same time, we’re digging out bags of leaf mould to spread around some of the wildlife areas we look after, including the main gardens here, of course. We have to wait a little longer before covering the ground too thickly, as many plants we want to keep are just coming through as seedlings, along with all the ones that really are weeds here, i.e. they’ll stop other plants growing. Once we know which we want to keep, we’ll fill all the gaps with a few centimetres of leaf mould, to stop further weeds germinating, and most importantly, to be incorporated into the soil over the next couple of months by worms. We’ve been doing this for a couple of years now, to increase the amount of soil organic matter, which makes the ground more like a sponge, absorbing moisture and holding on to it for longer, so we don’t have to water so much. With the hotter and drier summers, and the same number of volunteers looking after the gardens, this is really important.

The one problem this year was that a couple of team members were injured and unable to carry bags of leaves around, let alone fling them into the (two-metre high) leaf mould bin. We managed; but if there’s anyone out there who fancies a bit of really good exercise next autumn and would like to help us then, do let us know!