Gardening writer CEDRIC BRYANT looks at dealing with the endless falling leaves at this time of the year.
WHY can’t all varieties of trees drop their leaves at the same time?
Unfortunately nature doesn’t work that way, and must have decided that the exercise we get from cleaning up over a period of time is a good thing!
Leaves, especially when wet, are quite heavy. When accumulated on top of hedges and other small evergreen shrubs, they can actually cause dieback.
Likewise, keep lawns free of accumulated leaves. And don’t walk on a frosty lawn in the morning, as footprints will show the damage to the grass once the sun comes up.
Many folk curse the size and quantity of leaves from oak trees, but oak leaves actually contain almost the highest content of nitrogen of any leaf. Rake into piles and shred with the mower on its lowest setting. Then either put them on the compost heap, adding several good handfuls of garden lime to each barrow load, or straight on to garden beds as mulch. They’re considerably more beneficial than wood chips or tan bark, which can actually rob the soil of nitrogen. For collecting small leaves such as maple, the Ozito mulcher/blower/vac works well.
MANY perennials have well and truly finished flowering and need to be cut down to ground level, like sedum spectabile “Autumn Glory”, pictured above near the end of its autumn flowering with its rusty-red flowers. Immediately the tall stalks die back after being hit with frost, it reveals at the base a mass of new shoots. One would think these tender shoots would also be hit by the frost, but not a bit of it. Throughout winter they continue to grow and by spring are at least 20-30cm tall. These will continue growing through summer to flower in the autumn.
If you’d like to grow more of them, now is the time to dig up the roots, complete with those new shoots, and divide. This may be for filling in bare spots in the garden or potting up for church/school fetes. Dividing the clump is a real toughie. I use a pruning saw, or if it’s a large clump, a tomahawk, to divide them and then trim off the surplus roots. From this clump (pictured right), I will get at least 10-15 new plants. The sedums clump up so fast that even after a couple of years, you should get at least 10. The sedums, often referred to as stonecrops, are a large family and most are heat, drought and frost tolerant.
MANY roses are sold with the roots in a plastic bag in supermarkets. When stored under artificial light and air conditioning, shoots start to grow prematurely. Planted out and with the first good frosts, say goodbye to the new shoots. Today most garden centres pot up the roses and keep them in open, natural conditions. Also if bought in pots and not planted straight away, they will be fine. Lightly trim long roots before planting. Make the hole large enough so that roots are not curled round to fit the hole. Water well after planting with added certified liquid organic seaweed plant nutrients. Expect the first blooms around October/November.