Friday, September 30, 2011

It's officially fall in the garden! Leaves are falling, asters are blooming, and I'm planning for next year. Somewhere in the middle of summer I fell behind on my gardening posts {as well as falling behind on wedding posts ~ we still have some great projects, recipes, and pictures to share!}

Here's the south side of the house in the peak of summer:: The July and August beds were full of bee-balm, blacked-eyed susans, coneflowers, butterfly weeds. And the grass was tinged with brown as it recovered from a dry spell. As the summer flowers faded, they've been replaced by fall beds full of sedum and asters::

It was nice to sit back and watch this garden grow, but now that I know what's growing where {for the most part}, I'm feeling a bit more confident in my plans for next year. For example, the fall beds are not looking as sharp as they should, due mainly to a lack of maintenance early in the summer ~ I should have been pinching back the asters and sedum to encourage more stocky growth. By not pinching back, we've produced quite a few leggy ladies::

Planning aside, there's still plenty of work to be done right now, and my focus has turned to leaves! As my favorite garden guru, Mike McGrath, knows this year's leaves provide the raw material for next year's mulch. Why mulch? Mulching your beds with leaves adds organic matter that will help to retain water throughout the growing season, unfortunately, because the leaves are mostly carbon, leaf mulch won't add many nutrients to your soil, so compost or manure fertilizers should be used too.

To create the mulch, you want to shred this year's leaves and add a bit of nitrogen so that they begin to decompose. If you were to add the whole leaves to your beds, they would take a long time to break down and create a soggy mess that would smother tender spring plants.

So here's what you need:
~ leaves
~ nitrogen, if you mow your grass before you rake your leaves, the grass clippings will provide plenty of nitrogen. If you don't have any grass, you can buy a nitrogen compost supplement
~ a leaf blower/mulcher {the day we bought a leaf blower we officially embraced suburban life}. When you put your leaf blower on reverse it vacuums and shreds your leaves!!
~ a storage space with plenty of airflow for your shredded leaves.

Creating the bin is super easy with a bit of chicken wire and zip ties::

I wanted to create a simple bin that was about three feet tall with a three foot diameter. This requires a three by ten foot piece of chicken wire, and lucky for us, that exact size is sold in many hardware stores. Shown here with our 200+ pack of zip ties, because we love us some zip ties:: To create the bin, unroll and flatten your wire, then attach the two short sides with a few zip ties. If it's a bit wobbly when you stand it up and/or if you live in a particularly windy area, you can secure it with a few tent stakes or fence posts {sold right next to the wire in our hardware store}. I skipped the posts and used some branches that were pruned from our trees.

In our little yard, I found a nice hidden space for my bin in our "woodland corner" {the little area filled with spruces, ferns, and other shade-loving plants}.
It's so perfectly hidden, yet still very accessible.

Once your bin is built, shred your leaves and grass, and fill the bin! You'll want to keep your leaves moist, and turn it every once in a while throughout the winter, and by spring you should have some nice, dark brown mulch. Now that the mulch pile is built, it's time to start thinking about a compost pile, but the two should not be combined ~ the one winter season of leaf decay for your mulch pile is not enough time to turn kitchen scraps into compost, particularly if you continue to add fresh material to the pile. So two piles are needed, and you can always add leaves from the mulch pile to the compost.

1 comment:

mom said...

What do you suggest is the best way to flatter your wire?
love, mom