Apples on a leafless apple tree, November 2004

Above: Apples against a blue sky, November 2004

Garden diary: October

10 November 2001

Waheyy! There's a frog in my mini-pondette!

I made a small pond in August, a product of one weekend's enthusiasm and some thick polythene I didn't know what to do with.

I knew the small pond I'd made was too near to trees, and that in autumn I would have to cover it or regularly clear it of fallen leaves. This week I decided I should tackle this, and fish them out. There were a few I could feel had fallen to the bottom, in the soil down there around the roots of the plants. I was fishing about trying to locate them, with the aid of a small plastic garden sieve.

In a pause, when I wondered why I was bothering with this glorified puddle, I noticed a frog's head had appeared just above the water.

I have also, in a previous year, had the privilege of meeting a toad in the garden. Having met the toad and thinking it was a frog, I was very pleased on this occasion to realise that I was absolutely sure that this frog was a frog.

Collecting leaves

As someone whose roses always get blackspot or rust, and whose fruit tree is of doubtful health, I am advised to collect up and throw away all diseased leaves. This being recommended as an organic way of helping to keep diseases down, as the leaves will spread the diseases from one year to the next. And this year, and next, and as long as I'm 'in charge', no chemical pesticides or fungicides are allowed near my plants.

Diseased leaves, fruit tree leaves, leaves from roses, shouldn't be added to the compost heap. Yet, conversely, composting all green garden waste is important.

As an avid compost-maker for several years now, I hate throwing away any vegetation that comes from my garden. So I have a dilemma.

Okay, so I will throw away the diseased leaves, and compost the rest. Great plan.

Would work if each tree or rose was 10 metres from every other plant, with a 10 metre high fence around it. In reality, certainly in any garden with a well-established planting, every plant is intermingled with everything else, and the autumn winds ensure that all leaves are blown together in great indiscriminate heaps.

So I'm collecting handfuls of fallen leaves each year, trying to keep the leaves of the Virginia creeper for recycling into compost, finding in each handful a few of the leaves from the nearby rose, spotted with blackspot or rust. I have a handful of leaves, a potential source of organic matter to be returned to enrich the soil of my garden. I also have a handful of leaves which is a potential bio-hazard transmitting blackspot, rust and mildew to next year's roses.

What's a gardener to do? Collect each and every leaf individually, adding the non-diseased to the compost, the others to the bin? Take the diseased stuff to the 'green waste' disposal facility at the local tip, feeling vaguely troubled at the thought of passing on all that rust/blackspot/ canker/mildew?

And recently our council has added a further option/problem, by providing us with an enormous wheelie bin. It's sitting there like a rather malevolent presence, demanding to be filled.

At night the wheelie bin peers in through our window, its great jawlike lid flapping open, saying 'I'm an enormously over-sized disposal device. I have extra room for all the green stuff you can't be bothered to compost or take to the tip. Fill me with those rusty mildewed leaves!'

The organic gardener's life is such a complex one, filled with ethical dilemmas and competing waste disposal options. No wonder I feel so tired.

Back to November highlights and diaries


Berries - pyracantha and viburnum

Above: Berries of pyracantha and Viburnum tinus 'Gwenllian'.

Garden diary: December