In nature, Autumn is a time of slowing down, shedding and resting. The energy of the summer begins to move back down into the earth, tree sap returns to the roots and leaves fall to the ground where they are to be returned to soil in preparation for new life in the spring.
We too may feel a slowing down, a pull downwards and inwards, as we say goodbye to the busyness and intensity of summer. In a world that values very prescriptive ideas of “efficiency” and “productivity” it can feel hard to let go, that there is a tension between what our bodies are calling for and what society tells us we should be doing or feeling. Working in a garden can help release this tension, find acceptance in the changing of the seasons, and understand autumn as a time to take much-needed rest. Nature knows this, and we can learn a lot from observing the transitions of the seasons.
With Samhain (aka Halloween) now passed, this is now the beginning of the New Year; for gardeners, as for our ancestors who followed the Wheel of the Year. There is still lots of work to be done at this time, but the work is different. The abundant harvest of late summer is over, and our work in the garden changes gear. We are mirroring the behaviour of the wildlife, collecting seeds and storing them away for next year, picking the last of the veg (especially squash and spinach!), eating what we can, and preserving the rest.
We are mirroring other aspects of the changing season too, mulching our beds with warm, decomposing goodness just like the leaves that fall from the trees to create a rich new soil layer. And we mirror the energy of autumn too in our return to the dreaming space – now the plants are dying back and we can see the garden in its more skeletal form, we can imagine and discuss new plans for the months to come and next year; how to change the shape of things, the way our systems work, whether that be water, pathways or compost.
It is this time of year when we also feel extra grateful for our polytunnel, which holds enough warmth for us to continue our growing throughout the autumn and winter, albeit at a slower pace of growth. With the stormy weather and relentless rain of late, the polytunnel is more of a cosy refuge for us gardeners than ever, full of seedlings promising winter salads, beetroot and even mushrooms.
Compost really is the theme of the time. As a garden evolving more and more into a permaculture design, we are feeding our soils with homemade compost from the kitchen, mulch of apple pulp, straw and wool from our sheep, and old mushroom-growing blocks full of mycelium. It feels like we are saying thank you for everything the garden has given us this year, and offering nutrients and fuel to encourage another abundant year ahead.
Annie Emery – Ambios Garden Facilitator
Project supported by The National Lottery Community Fund