Many people groan when it comes to raking leaves in the Fall, but I don’t get it. I wait for a beautiful, sunny day after all the leaves have fallen. Then I go out with my rake, and enjoy being outside, the rhythmic swoosh-swoosh of the rake, and the crunchy rustle of the leaves. We like leaves so much, we typically collect the leaves from two or three neighbors in addition to the ones from our own trees! Today, I was alone, but there have been years when a group of neighbors ended up working together to do multiple yards. Once, when our girls were younger, it turned into a spontaneous garden party with kids jumping in leaves and hot chocolate at the end!
Leaves have all kinds of benefits. We put them under our trees, where they provide nutrients, protection, and maintain soil moisture. We put them on some of the garden beds and paths, where they keep down weeds. We have a big pile next to our compost bin, and every time we put out the kitchen waste, we add some handfuls of leaves from the pile. This accelerates the the composting process and completely eliminates odors. Ideally, we might shred the leaves so they compost more quickly — but, I just corresponded with Mark about getting a mechanical shredder, and we nixed the idea: chickens would do the work better, with zero-waste and electricity, so let’s get chickens!
For number geeks: Druidgarden, in a detailed post about leaves, provided a calculation for leaf nutrients by pound. I figure we got about 150 pounds so far. Using the Druidgarden numbers, our pile has: 70 pounds of carbon; 1.5 pounds of nitrogen; 0.15 pounds of potassium and phosphorus each; 2.4 pounds of calcium. That’s at least a couple of bags of premium compost from the store. There is also a little climate benefit. There are 5.5 lbs of carbon in one gallon of gas, so by composting this leaf pile we can offset one 12 gallon tank of gas in our Toyota Matrix. It won’t change the world in a day, but hey, it all adds up!
On another note, other day, I went out and winterized our blackberries, grapes, and currants, which grow around our deck. Each plant has its own particular needs. The blackberries need to have this year’s fruiting canes entirely cut back, and the new canes trained up the deck frame. The grapes, which grow like crazy, have to be very much reined in, with 20-foot spurs cut back to tips of 1-2 buds on the leading branches. The currants, which grow more sedately, still require thinning out the older branches to leave room for the more vigorous younger growth. All of this is gratifying. The end result – with a sweeping of the deck included — is a tidy look, where all the plants feel quiet, ready for a restorative winter-rest.