28 November 2016

riches of dead leaves

I have finished processing all the dead leaves in the yard (well, eighty to ninety percent- our maple tree is still holding onto some that might come down later, and the neighbors' sycamore tree keeps dropping leaves into our yard too) for mulch and composting.
It is quite a task, but a very satisfying way to wrap up the gardening season. I have a leaf-eating machine; my husband bought it several years ago and this is the third season I have used it. I've gotten more efficient at shredding the leaves up. This is a chore with very particular timing- it doesn't work well if the leaves are wet, it's annoying to do if windy (leaf dust blown in my face) and I don't like to do it when the children are around- very loud, kicks random bits of bark or twig out that I miss when sifting the leaves- I wear protective goggles but have gotten my cheek nicked a few times- plus I'm afraid a curious child might throw something in there to see what the machine will eat, and really it can only handle leaves- I have to sift each handful to pull out small twigs, even the heavier petioles of sycamore leaves will snarl it up.

So sometimes it's hard to find the time to grind the leaves. This year I made the effort to gather them as often as I could, into huge piles the kids like jumping in, and also into my wheelbarrow and plastic bins, which I stored under the deck and some old carpeting to stay relatively dry until it was time to shred them. Unfortunately I think I burned out the motor of the shredder. I was just finishing up the last leaf pile and it started to make a high pitched whine and a terrible smell. I shut it down and just bagged the remainder of the leaves, let the motor rest for the day but I'm not sure if it will work again. It's possible there was too much dirt and thatch in the last lot of leaves I raked off the lawn, which has been too dry this year...
Have a good dozen bags of leaf mulch saved under the deck now, for composting throughout the coming year. I applied a lot more to the yard immediately- around all the trees, all plants in the beds, mailbox spot, new shrubs- rhodies, summersweet and hydrangeas got an extra thick layer. Two or three inches thick across all the veggie beds. You can see there is still some green life- broccoli on the left, a few herbs (parsley, thyme, oregano, sage) on the right and some swiss chard. In the upper picture, borage is still making a statement, and my tiny rosemary is still alive. Speaking of what's still green, there is argyranthemum making green lacy shapes, hellebores nice dark green, and sage pretty blue-green in their various spots and containers. I am seriously considering planting a lot of sage next year, just to have more greenery in the yard when it gets cold, and spreading the argyranthemum if I can. Hellebores grow slowly, it will be longer before I have more of them.

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