I love autumn and even winter down our allotments. Once I’ve finally accepted the inevitable that the summer growing season is over. When the first tentative few frosts begin to bite at the last of the flowers, and the perennials make their retreat to sleep out the winter underground.
The smell of bonfires, sweet and earthy decay and dew on the air. The wildlife population also become visibly more active too. The cheeky squirrels and Jays busy themselves burying acorns from the oak tree opposite our plot, here there and everywhere much to our frustration (those forgotten acorns, sprouting as mini trees come mid summer). The allotment foxes hungrily roam their territory in broad daylight. The plot Robins back by our side, watching us as we dig over the beds. The uneven V’s of geese and now and then the odd swan as they cross from lake to lake. And if you’re really lucky you’ll hear the Tawny Owl from the wood hoot out at dusk. But most importantly autumn brings the vibrant colours and then the fallen leaves.
Our allotment site is surrounded partly by a woodland, Bluebell Woods a small remnant of the ancient forest of London. A stones throw away from the famous North London woodlands of Highgate and Hampstead. All of which are historically and spiritually connected to the Ancient Forest of Middlesex. With all those mature trees in the vicinity it makes for a plentiful supply of fallen leaves for Leaf Mould. The last few weeks we’ve been raking up as many leaves we can muster in bin bags to store behind the shed. Leaving for a year or two to rot down into leaf mould. Leaving the remaining few smatterings of leaves here and there on the soil for the worms to slowly pull under the ground and turn into compost for us. As long as their not suffocating the crowns of any sleeping plant we’re not too anal about picking up every last leaf. In any case a slightly scruffy plot makes for a wildlife friendly one. Providing hidey holes for beneficial creepy crawlies to spent the winter months.
With the back-aching work of raking and bagging done, all that’s left is to sit back and leave (no pun intended) the leaf mould to breakdown quietly half forgotten behind the shed.
As autumn turns to winter and Jack Frost reigns the land, time turns to cosy evenings curled up with a cup of tea and some seed catalogues on my knee…