Allendale, Northumberland: Fungi and leaf mould are all part of the recycling that makes my garden thrive

Autumn is a rich, woodsy potpourri of scents as I rake leaves from the garden paths. Seeing them as a harvest rather than a nuisance, I lay the leaves over the shady border to rot down and improve the soil. Bulbs will push up through the leaf mould in spring. One path that I clear by hand has an eruption of hundreds of plump wood puffballs. There’s a strong fungal smell as I pull them up so their fruiting bodies can’t mature. It’s best to avoid breathing in the millions of dust-like spores that they produce, something that could be easily triggered from their ripe globes when trodden on.

In the flower border, clusters of shaggy ink-caps burgeon up through the soil, forcing aside clods of mud. Their caps are smooth and creamy, supported by chunky stems, their sides flaking with curled overlapping layers, inspiring the alternative name of lawyer’s wig. Some have turned rusty orange on top and black and slimy underneath as they collapse back into the earth. The fungi and the leaf mould are all part of the recycling that makes my garden thrive.

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