I confess I like things neat and tidy.
I love all things organized and in their place.
Mess makes me angry. I can’t help it. Blame society, social media, female peer pressure, family hoarding, whatever, I don’t like it.
So when the leaves start to fall my immediate response isn’t usually – “ooh leaf mould,” it’s, “urrghh leaf mess.”
While doing the school pick up I was talking to mums about the holidays and we started talking about decorations – and how we loved putting them up, but REALLY loved talking them down. Why? Because eventually we all go fed up of the mess and the clutter making things look messy and gathering dust.
So once that holiday was over, BOOM – out went the decorations and cleaning commenced. We told each other how long we could wait it out until will started taking the decorations down. Two days after, one day after, at 6 am the next day! How we laughed. Oh my goodness – it felt like we were comparing cars – but instead it was about comparing our cleaning craziness.
But as I left that car park, I thought about how ingrained that need to clear and to make our environments ‘normal’ again after the holiday clutter.
Clutter commands our senses – we can’t help but see it, possibly trip over it, and not see what we’re looking for. Clutter is muddling.
Like multitasking it requires our attention, taking up precious space and energy in our brains. We become less focused and efficient and experience more stress.Mind Body Green, “The real reason you can’t stand clutter explained.”
Now when it comes to leaves at autumn, I have the same need to clear away the seasonal natural decor – much to the detriment of my environment I now realise. But this cleaning frustration of leaf clutter just piles on – literally.
No sooner have we swept up or blown up some leaves, then an autumn storm comes in and blows a load more down again.
The infuriation of looking at your newly cleared lawn – and to see a leaf float down on top of it – after all your hard work, is like….this
Now we have a LOT of trees and a LOT of leaves. We can easily fill 10 builder’s bags full of them. But my stress levels while collecting and filling and doing something with these leaves is off the scale. Sometimes it feels as if we are drowning in leaves.
So, watching Monty Don on the last episode of Gardener’s world, jauntily sweep his leaves with some handmade broom made me even MADDER. I love Monty, but the carefree way he was sweeping those leaves like it was such a lovely task to delicately whip up these these red and brown autumn petals was totally infuriating.
I wasn’t sure if I was mad at myself for over-reacting to leafageddon or if I wanted Monty to come to our house and see what his little broom would do in our garden – NOTHING. Try wrestling that broom off two small children then herding them and the leaves into a bag filled with holes.
Only to have said children jump in – supposedly having fun – while messing up the leaves AGAIN!
I need to change my perspective.
I need to be more like this lady. She looks delighted to be swamped with leaves here. They’re probably not hers to be honest.
So I’m using the Mind, Body Green’s article for dealing with the stress of clutter and applying it to leaves.
1. Review your leaves
Look at your leaves. If you’ve got a pile of evergreen or thick waxy leaves then you need to contain them in their own bag or compost pile. They don’t degrade as quickly as deciduous leaves.
Make sure your leaves don’t contain any litter and remove.
2. Deal with unwanted leaves
Don’t stuff them in your bin. That’s not good for anyone.
Shred them so they are as small as possible, or mow them first.
Now, you can either ad small amounts to your compost, or segregate them to make that wonder product, leaf mould.
If you opt for leaf mould, then you want to stuff them into some sort of container so they can sit somewhere – hidden.
You could either create a wire mesh frame with some bamboo canes and some chicken wire and store the leaves in those. After a year or so the leaves will have decomposed into leaf mould.
Or, get some specially made, compostable leaf sacks from a garden centre, nursery or Amazon.
Failing that, use a bin liner with some holes punched into it. Make sure the leaves a moist. Usually not a problem at this time of year.
3. Tidy your workspace / garden
Make sure you have your leaf collecting tools in an organized space.
Having your tools tidy and easily accessible can help alleviate the leaf fall stress. If you can see that your tools are at hand and ready to go, that can help calm things a bit.
Tidying other areas of your garden, like painting fences, removing weeds, mulching beds, can all help with the calm and distract from the leaf fall.
4. Rearrange your plants
Try a garden edit. Now, is the perfect time to move plants and plant bare-root fruit trees and roses. Check out my blog post on Editing Your Garden in the Autumn here.
Between November and March any bare-root plants, shrubs and perennials that are dormant and can be shipped without soil, are much cheaper to buy.
I’m going to plant up some new hedging and add some native hedging that the birds will like too. The cost to do this major garden editing is MUCH cheaper in the autumn.
Go for local suppliers and look for heritage fruit trees that are adapted to your area’s climate and soil, or native hedging and shrubs that will add diversity and wildlife to your garden.
In Northern Ireland, I was delighted to come across Craigmore Trees who have loads of ornamental and fruit trees – including a great selection of Irish apples.
I’m after a Kemp – an apple from Co Armagh – from 1837 with sharp juicy flesh, or even the enticingly named Ballyfatten from Northern Ireland too.
5. Consider colour and texture
This one was hard. The theory is that certain colours and textures can give you a sense of calm or even wellbeing.
Easier said than done in a garden which is steadily draining itself of colour.
But, there are things you can do. BUY PLANTS! Uh-oh. But, go for some hardy evergreens or perennials like heathers, hellebores, skimmia.
Choose a colour palette that’s calming for you. For me – that means white and purples.
I hope these help.
Next time you see a leaf falling from the trees onto your pristine garden – take a deep breath and think about the leaf mould and look at your lovely calming plants.
Those leaves will not break you!