Monday, October 31, 2005

Leaf mulch

I don't like to admit this, but I'm not very consistent about composting. Most of the time I have a mouldered heap of kitchen scraps and garden cullings, but it rarely gets more deliberate than that. I could try getting some straw to help draw air into the pile, and build a second bin to store the drier materials for doling out between doses of wet kitchen stuff, but it's hard to get motivated when I know I can just go get a truckload of manure from the farm for the garden, and be done with it. On the other hand, I might as well have a compost pile, just to keep stuff off that big truck that hauls our trash about fifty miles to the landfill.

Every year around this time, I start thinking about building that extra bin, to store next year's leaves. It's always too late for this year. Except this year, I found a new idea for the leaves: mulching that big shady area under the tree rows beside the next house. The grass in there is always straggly and thin and weedy, and it's a nuisance to try to mow around and between the trunks. When Umbra at Grist mentioned using leaves for mulch, it seemed so simple. I'll just rake leaves off the good grass, and pile them on the scraggly grass. Hopefully in a couple of years I'll have something more like forest understory under the trees. I'm thinking that I'll try adding seeds or berries from native understory plants like Canada violets, fairy bells, false solomon's-seal, snakeroot, and wild sarsaparilla. Mom hasn't had much success germinating seeds from forest plants, but I figure that if I can create a forest-ish environment and let the seeds go through a typical cycle of winter exposure, maybe they will grow okay on their own. I might put a few shrubs in, too (dogwood and Wood's rose from Shand Greenhouse).

Speaking of shrubs, Garth wanted to get some saskatoon bushes. While I was busy concentrating the leaves into one part of the yard, I paused to lean on my rake and happened to look up, and there was a saskatoon bush. How could I have missed it? Granted, it's one of those shade-affected bushes that looks more like a cluster of small trees, with no leaves below at least eye level. Still, it makes me wonder if I've had some sort of negative attitude making me blind to the advantages of this little yard. I'll have to watch next spring to see if it flowers. Then again, the chokecherry always has loads of flowers and almost no fruit at all. Birds, I'm guessing.

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