Riding for a fall

The autumn is upon us, and cliches abound about golden gowns, crunchy carpets and all sorts of other guff. But I think we do need to say a word or two about leaves, given that this is high noon for them, that they are a very useful resource to us gardeners (as a peat substitute in home-made seed compost) – and they do, I am reliably informed, grow on trees.

The uninitiated might well assume that there is absolutely nothing controversial whatsoever about the tranquil pursuit of gathering fallen leaves. But not so fast my fine friends. As your trusty blogger has managed to demonstrate amply in posts passim, there is a row lurking around every corner, under every stone and behind every tree.

So can we get the rant out of the way first? A word on leaf-blowers:


Sorry. I may have to edit this blog when a certain person sees it. But really, this is a “why-oh-why” moment. Leaf-blowers should be banned, and anyone who ever so much as mentions those two words in the same sentence, let alone brings one up to the plot, should be shot (my mate Rob from Mowdirect says they do quiet ones, but I remain to be convinced).

And why is that? Because they are surely the most gratuitous, incessant, maddening, pointless and useless source of noise pollution known to mankind. If you lived where we live, our house backing onto a large school playground, you don’t need an alarm clock at this time of year, because such is the groundsmen’s aversion to the dead brown stuff that they feel obliged to blow-dry each and every specimen to within an inch of its life (and what the hell is wrong with a rake and a broom?). And the root of this aversion? No doubt because in this litigious little world that we live in, if one of the little darlings were to slip on a dead leaf and graze her knee, a call might well be made to m’learned friends.

But what has all of this got to do with the allotment site, I hear you ask? No, OK, no tenant has so far had the balls/stupidity to bring one one of those infernal things up to the hill. But the subject of leaves is certainly well up the agenda, and elephant traps remain when it comes to gathering them up.

One year on, and are those bags rotting or not?

I kicked off my foraging habit a fair few years ago by touring the streets with binbags, doing my best to avoid the litter, broken bottles and dogshit (and ignoring the theory that they are further contaminated by vehicle exhaust fumes). But what happens when you meet a bunch of “operatives” from the People’s Republic of Haringey coming the other way? They are not impressed by that sort of thing – “customers” (or are we called “clients” these days?) doing “their jobs”. (Try explaining to them why you’re doing it, and the eyes start rolling, the heads start shaking and the men in white coats are summoned).

I briefly considered transferring the foraging to the woods – but hang on a mo. Fallen leaves aren’t just lying there messing up the forest floor, are they? They are part of an ecosystem – one that is best left undisturbed (and yes, one of our fellows has indeed been bollocked recently by a local woodland ecowarrior for doing just that).

Three years on, and we’re just about cooked

So what next? Well, for once, the People’s Republic have done something useful without cocking it up. Their parks department seems to be allergic to fallen leaves, so they dutifully blast them all to oblivion with aforementioned leaf-blowers, gather them up and dump them for free at the allotment site, all tucked up in allegedly biodegradable plastic sacks which, one year on, appear to be doing a very fine job of failing to degrade very much at all.

Oh well. Guess you can’t win them all. At least I’ve done my bit for saving the peat bogs. I haven’t bought a sack of seed compost in many years.

Categories: Allotment blog, Allotments, Compost, Gardening, Horticulture | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Going for a pong

There’s going to be another mighty stink kicked up any day now in the parish of Shepherds Hill – but this time, us hillbillies are going to have to take the rap. And what’s the kerfuffle this time, might you ask? Another compostathon is due tomorrow morning – a mere 15 tons from our friends at North London Waste. And who’s going to be kicking up the stink? Firstly, us with our large steaming pile of the black stuff that will be deposited just inside in our main entrance. Secondly, the little darlings from Highgate Wood school as they trot past on their way to PE in the adjacent playing field. And, I’m glad to say, only once so far from a local resident (who didn’t seem to want to have it out with us but moaned to his residents’ association instead).

Sniff that lot!

OK, can you shift that lot by lunchtime?

In fairness to all of them, I wouldn’t want to live next door to a pile of that stuff, though the strength of the odour seems to vary from load to load (I am with our friends in Pinkerton Way on that one). The clothes-peg-wearing neighbours have tolerated more than a score of deliveries to our site over the last four years or so – in the order of 250 to 300 tonnes in all. The standard delivery is about 13 to 14 tonnes – one of those huge skips you find at the Hornsey recycling depot, full. We try and shift it PDQ, not just to minimise the discomfort but to ensure we each get a good pile; the site resembles a colony of famished dungbeetles with each delivery with wheelbarrow gridlock on the narrow paths.

Some of our fellows have taken to calling this stuff “council compost” – a phrase I have jumped on big time. Credit where it’s due. It would be much better termed “the people’s compost”, as that’s what it is – a very fine example of recycling gone full circle. The republic’s only involvement, along with local authorities across the area, is to gather up green waste deposited by local residents on the kerbside and dump it at the North London Waste depot at Edmonton, where it is processed, sterilised, etc and then shipped out to farms, nurseries, allotments and horticultural establishments for free.

And very good stuff it is too, apart from a certain amount of litter; guaranteed free of weeds and heavy metals, certified by the Soil Association and pretty good on the nutritional front too. I visited the NLW tent at last weekend’s Taste of Autumn event at Capel Manor (they sponsored the event) and got some blah on how it compares with other soil improvers – cow and pig muck, green manures, but interestingly, no mention of horse dung. Not that we really needed to know. We’ve been using it for long enough to recognise some good results.

Apart from that, the only complaints will be from my back (again) from all that digging and barrowing. And my long-suffering wife, of course. Looks like I’ll be getting hosed down again on the front garden path before I am allowed back into the house. No problem. The water cannon remains on its usual mounting, primed and trained for any stinkers that dare to step where angels fear to tread.

Categories: Allotment blog, Allotments, Compost, Gardening, Horticulture | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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