Autumn is slowly dwindling into winter here in Asturias. A last few stubborn leaves cling to branches but at the base of the trees their fallen brethren pile higher and higher. Where, a couple of weeks ago, my dog walks inspired me to stuff my pockets full of chestnuts, now they send me scurrying off for my wheelbarrow to collect this bounty of leaves for mulching.
I’m a great advocate of anything that’s natural, free and ultimately makes less work for me. Leaf mulch, nature’s own design for over-wintering trees, ticks all of these boxes. My much neglected fruit trees will this winter benefit from a leaf-mould compost feed that will at the same time be suppressing weed and grass growth around their bases.
The garden overall has been looking increasingly sad and bedraggled – enough to encourage me into some ruthless pruning and cutting back. As I’ve found my rhythm with the clippers I’ve enjoyed the process more and more and I’ve taken the opportunity to cast a critical eye around the beds and do a little planning.
And so it is that the onset of winter provides a necessary pause in the growing cycle. A beat in which to take a step back and look around. The growing season here is so long and so productive that most of the year it’s all I can do to just try and stay on top of things. It’s a battle to stop the grass (and weeds!) from growing to waist height as soon as I turn my back. There is no time for grander plans or designs.
Now I barrow the compost that I (or rather, time) has made from our kitchen and garden waste and cover large areas of ground to rest and recuperate, to imbibe nutrients ready for planting next year and to make it effortless to dig and prepare for fresh planting. Hard experience has taught me the importance of this. It has also taught me that no effort in the garden is ever wasted. A little work and forethought now will pay me back in spades in the future (pun intended 😉 ).
This is also a pleasant time for physical work in the garden. The cooler temperatures are great for days spent digging and hoeing and barrowing. As, yet again, I strip down to short sleeves I wonder how I ever got anything at all done in the heat of summer. Now that this year’s drought has finally ended it’s also easier to catch the soil at its most malleable – not so wet that it is clumpy and sticky but moist enough so that you can slide a spade into it and turn it over with ease.
With the cutting and pruning also comes the natural opportunity to propagate. Last winter was really the first time where I took several cuttings of various bushes and potted them up over winter. The results were amazing. A simple snip and a shove into a pot of compost and come spring and summer I had a load of new lavender, rosemary, succulents, rose and margarita bushes and many more gorgeous plants nicked from neighbours. Simply magical.
So this year I’m naturally keen to do the same – but more and better. I have a lot of ground to cover (both literally and figuratively) in the garden so I’ve taken a LOT of cuttings and been splitting a lot of plants. If they all take I should have a happy surplus on my hands – so lots of nice presents for friends. But we have a while to wait yet.
Last week was when winter started to really bite. The temperatures finally, and suddenly dipped sharply. We had 5 full days of rain, with one daylong electrical storm accompanied by hailstones. A week to spend indoors with the woodburner on. When last weekend came around and the rain finally stopped the clouds lifted to reveal this:
And so this weekend (a long, holiday weekend here in Spain) sees the timely opening of the ski stations. Winter is upon us.