Above: Candytuft and Hydrangea enjoy the soil in spring.
This morning, David and I moved 3,000 leaves (the first of the fallen) along the brick walks to the street for the county leaf mobile which will vacuüm the curbs beginning next month.
The county collects the leaves and other yard waste, composts it over the winter, and sells the resulting mulch to county residents. At present, clever gardeners all over the county are spreading ‘black gold’ from last years collection around their garden beds.
For years, David and I had a half truck of the county mulch dumped in our driveway every fall. We stopped after one of the neighbors complained about the unsightly pile of mulch we left in the (shared) driveway all winter. We finally accepted we were growing slower when it came to spreading the stuff.
Although we push about half of the collected leaves to the street for pickup, we compost the other half…leaves from American Bay, Post Oak, Wild Cherry, Black Walnut, and others fill one compost bin where they will decompose over the next few years. A third bin holds kitchen garbage such as vegetable peels, coffee grounds and egg shells (no meat products) which we collect in a covered bin to keep the rats away. We put shredded paper from our house as well as the corn based packing peanuts into all the bins undergoing decomposition. Once a year we integrate the contents of the processed bins into the third bin, removing the stuff that has not decomposed to a fourth bin. Then we spread the new mix.
We have always composted our yard and house waste, and we will continue to make our home-grown compost as long as we can. But this fall we ceased turning the bin contents and spreading the compost ourselves. I hired Seth the nurseryman and his crew to do the deed.
When our compost disappears, we amend the beds with store-bought mulch…cocoa shells out front and shredded hard wood bark out back. Neither David nor I can lift 50 lb bags anymore, so I had the crew do the task this year. They even delivered the stuff from their warehouse.
I began organic gardening and composting in the 1960s, but my parents did it in the 1940s and 1950s. David and I have spent the past 30 years building our garden beds with compost and our garden soil is PH neutral and very friable…both qualities perennials enjoy. Our soil now resembles the fabulous deposits left in the upper Midwest following the Ice Ages, not the horrible subsoil left in Virginia from the tobacco plantations.
Raking is great exercise, however, this fall, I bought an electric leaf blower. Being a seasoned ‘rakeman’, David had difficulty accepting the new gadget and resorted to hand collecting the raked piles into the cart.
After a few back-breaking minutes, he consented to use the blower to clean the smaller debris off the brick walks. Then he proceeded to the trash and recycle containers, and front porch and blew a month’s worth of leaves into the street.
I thought he might cry when there were no more leaves to blow, and reminded him that by next week a new layer will have formed.
He tells me I ruined his arm with the leaf mulcher and is leery of any new gadgets I buy. But finally, David took the new Toro leaf blower and blew the tiny bits of debris remaining on the walkways into the gardens where they will decompose over the winter.
“Hey, it works,” he says incredulously.
I cannot tell a lie. I got the idea from Tom Sightings http://sightingsat60.blogspot.com who has some knowledge concerning leaf raking and snow removal.
I suggested to David, the new leaf blower might also blow snow.
So we began the leaf collection process this morning. We will do this several times over the fall and will clean the beds once again in spring. Or we may pay someone to do it as David and I are wearing out inch by inch.
Some days I think of myself as an old tree, dropping a twig here and a branch there, a sentient being in the process of decomposing. Parts of me are crumbling away every year..a tooth, a toenail, a skin flap, and lots of hair. I’d like to think when I am cremated, what remains of me will become nutritious soil.
Below, Creeping Woodruf, Solomon’s Seal, and baby Brunnera leaves push up through the remnants of early bulbs and garden soil in spring.