Autumn leaves

Huge deciduous trees overhang our orchard herb gardens in Park Frankendael. These trees are shedding their leaves at present and the place looks lovely. Autumn is well and truely here!

The annual leaf fall is not a problem, in fact it is very beneficial to the orchard trees and paths. The fallen leaves will rot down over winter and be carried underground by worms, bugs and fungal mycelia, distributing nutrients around the plant roots.  The leaves also create a natural mulch,  protecting the plants from severe winter weather.  But on an immediate practical level, our paths and plants are currently buried deep and are difficult to find. The leaf rotting process also speeds up the breakdown of our bark paths. So the autumn leaves needed some attention.

Today we built two simple leaf mold bins and filled them with a small fraction of the fallen leaves. We bought a roll of large square mesh from a garden centre. For each bin we cut off a length (about 1m50cm long) to form a loose cilinder.

Wire cutters opened up closed ends down two sides of the mesh so that we could wind the ends and sides together, creating the cylinder.

Then, we cut a shorter length of the mesh and fastened this to create the base of the bin.

base of leafbin

To allow nesting and visiting mammals (such as hedgehogs) into the leaf containers,  we made three larger holes at the base of the leaf bins.

leaf bin making

Next, a layer of twiggy branches were laid inside the base of the leaf bins  (nesting mammals often favour this) and finally,  we loaded up the bins with fallen leaves.

Here is the finished result:

leaf bin finished

Thanks Bobby,  Ilko, Caro and Nathalie for helping to plan and make the leaf bins. I think they look great and hope that lots of wildlife benefits from them.

Here is some more general information about leaf mould.
And a Permaculture post about  it.

In summary – Leaf mold is great for the garden. It is good for soil water retention, contains minerals which the trees mine from deep in the soil, is easy to make but takes longer to rot down than regular compost. Leaf mold is made primarily by soil fungi whereas compost is made primarily by bacteria. The fungi remain in the leaf mold after it is made, so when added to soil, you have the benefits of fungi – instantly. Leaf mold can be mixed with a little sand to make excellent seed compost.



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Posted in Orchards, Uncategorized

Monarch Butterfly Waystation Project

StudentWithCaterpillarTom Neppl, senior lecturer from Iowa State University will be visiting River of Herbs Amsterdam in May 2016.  His Monarch Butterfly Waystation project assists the declining butterfly population in several ways. The project teaches local communities along the monarch migration route, how and where to plant the best forage plants. They have a butterfly tagging project and they teach the ins and outs of insect biology.Tom and his team are doing great things via the project and we are very much looking forward to meeting

Tom in May.  Lynn is now planning a gezellig evening where RoH and other wildlife promoting groups in Amsterdam can meet Tom, explain what we are doing and share ideas for greater success. She will ask Pakhuis de Zwijger if they have some space for us to gather on Thursday 26th or Friday 27th May.
Lynn needs an idea of how many people would be interested
a) in giving a short summary of their own wildlife initiative at the gathering
b) attending the evening
c)helping to organise it.
Can you help?

Please let Lynn know what you think ASAP and save the dates! If de Pakhuis is unable to host the gathering then we will find somewhere else that is suitable. But we like de Pakhuis very much, so hopefully they will be able to accommodate us in some way.
Do have a look at this recent update about the Monarch Waystation Project…
Posted in Butterflies, wildlife gardening

Urban Wildlife Gardening

A new River of Herbs course is being offered in the Spring of 2016. It will teach urban gardening methods which encourage wildlife into green spaces,  whatever their size and location.

This will be a three part practical course covering how to provide:
Food and
Water for urban wildlife.

The wildlife that we will consider includes birds,  butterflies,  hedgehogs,  frogs,  dragonflies, ladybirds and bees. Course participants will learn such things as: How to make bug hotels and hedgehog homes from waste materials,
How to plan and plant year round fodder plants and fungi for pollinators,
How to create wetland habitat in large or tiny spaces.


Two of the sessions will take place at Schellingwoude (Amsterdam Noord, bus 37) and one session will be in Oost Watergraafsmeer (tram 9, bus 65). Each session will be on a Monday morning between March and June 2016.

Value of the course is €250* per person.
*It is anticipated that course costs will be completely covered by Groen en Doen as has happened previously. All funds will be used to run the River of Herbs project.

If you like the sound of this course and want to hear more when we learn about Groen en Doen funding,  please email

Posted in Course, wildlife gardening