A Moseley Garden – November 2014

Monday, 23rd March 2015

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I’ve had some seasonal emails with questions that usually crop up at this time of year so I thought I would share the answers with you.

Q1 – “We are determined to use the leaves that drop in our garden this month to make leaf mould to add to our borders. Have you any tips as to which leaves you can use and which to avoid?” Clare and Bob, Moseley.

The best leaves to use for leaf mould production are the smaller ones such as Oak, Beech and Silver Birch. Trees with larger leaves such as Chestnut and Sycamore tend to take longer and should be shredded ideally before placing in the container or bin liner. It usually takes 18 months to 2 years to rot down to a useable product but is wonderful for mulching and improving the soil structure and moisture holding qualities of your borders.

Keep the pile damp as that will speed up the process of decay. If space is an issue simply bag up, (make holes in the bags) dampen if they are dry and then place in a corner of your garden until they are ready to harvest. I personally don’t make leaf mould with Sycamore leaves as they often have ‘Black Spot’ and it goes against my instincts, however the R.H.S. seem to think they are fine to use.

Something I did learn was the use of pine needles and conifer foliage, which if collected and stored for three years or more produce a fine highly acidic leaf mould perfect for dressing ericaceous shrubs such as Rhododendron and Camellia. They just take longer to rot down than deciduous leaves.

Q2 – “We have a number of semi hardy shrubs which survived without damage last winter, but I think we may have got lucky as the labels say they need to be protected from severe frost. Any advice as to what we can do to ensure they survive until spring damage free?” Matt and Louise, Moseley.

I would never guarantee a frost free winter again like 2013/14. That was the first one I can remember for a very long time. Your success this winter depends partly on the plant you are protecting, your own domestic microclimate and where the plant is located in your garden. Plants that are known to be frost sensitive should be in pots with good fast drainage and placed next to the house in a south facing direction, preferably away from drafty side passages and protected from any chilling winter wind. Wrapping in a horticultural fleece will provide an additional 3-5 degree blanket but if left on can lead to fungal diseases and rot so ideally the fleece should be taken off when a longer spell of milder winter weather arrives. Most nurseries will sell fleece ‘off the roll’ and recently I have seen fleece jackets on sale which can be put directly over the plants and tied beneath…job done.