Rake and Roll

Rake and Roll
October is a great month to harvest a nutrient rich and free soil amendment for your garden….leaves. Money does grow on trees as leaves provide both nutrients and great structure when incorporated into your garden soil. By next spring and summer the soil will be improved with organic matter and in many cases have abundant earthworms providing castings as well. It’s time to “Rake and Roll” in October if you want your garden to have rock star status next year, all at little to no cost.
If you have a grassy area that you want to convert to a flower or vegetable bed next year, but don’t have the time or energy to dig up sod, I have a solution. It’s a passive form of composting which some people call “lasagna” composting. Take the lawn area you wish to convert and cover the grass in the pattern and size you wish in newspaper 2 to 4 pages thick. Do it on a calm day with a garden hose at the ready so you can wet the paper. Otherwise you might find yourself chasing the classified ads all over the neighborhood.

"Leaf Lasagna" planting bed creation
“Leaf Lasagna” planting bed creation

After positioning the paper liberally cover the paper with leaves falling from the trees. I have found that Maple leaves are ideal for this purpose. You can pre-grind them with the lawn mower first if you want to speed up the decomposition process. Once the leaves are on top of the newspaper, finish up with soil placed on top of the leaves to hold them in place. Now you can “leaf” it alone and let nature take its course. The newspaper leaves and soil will suffocate the grass and the recipe will “cook” until spring for tilling into a rich tilth perfect for planting. In spring you’ll be “tilling” it like it is and glad you did.
If you want to develop a “flowering” in your landscape, October is the time to exercise your option of dropping amazing orbs of promise in the soil with spring flowering bulbs. Easy to plant and fun to watch flower in spring, there is a wonderful variety to choose from. If you struggle with rodents nibbling on the bulbs for a winter snack, just remember to have some chicken wire handy. Dig the hole and place the chicken wire in the bottom of the hole. Now situate the bulbs in the hole on top of the chicken wire. Fill with some soil, and fold the chicken wire over the top. Finish filling the hole with soil. The bulb roots and stems will grow through the chicken wire and rodents will be deterred from nibbling.

The "Alliums" have landed in my yard!
The “Alliums” have landed in my yard!

You may also want to consider planting some Alliums. Alliums are colorful, interesting flowers in all kinds of sizes and members of the onion family. Rodents must be self conscious about their breath as they tend to leave them alone for other treats in nature’s buffet.

“Raking” up is hard to do

During the growing season branches in our yards extend their leaves like hands with palms outstretched to catch the sunlight.

Like hands held up to the sunlight

Now that the work of chloroplasts in the foliage fed by sun, water, nutrients and carbon dioxide is done for a season, the spent leaves carpet the earth’s floor. Their work done, their season in the sun gives way to the dead of winter and branching hope for renewal in a next generation of leaves the following spring season. Having moved amassed sugars and carbohydrates from their manufacturing “plant” to the roots for storage, a healthy plant in essence saves for a rainy (or snowy) day. Technically if allowed to do so, the spent leaf can find a second calling as a beneficial compostable soil amendment when worked into the soil or compost pile.

“Raking” up is hard to do

Why not use the free leaves as some composting benefit and reward because like Neil Sedaka used to sing, “raking up is hard to do” (or something like that). The process of going into dormancy as we head towards winter is inevitable and non-reversible, fall then winter IS going to happen. Fortunately once dormant , dormancy itself is a reversible stage as on cold snowy days we dream of spring days to come.

It’s Over

Recycling the old Tannenbaum this afternoon. Thoughts turn from sugar plums dancing in our heads to seed catalogs, the smell of potting soil and number of days to spring. Life is all about seasons and I took a moment as I stood at the base of the recycle pile to sing in a way that would make Johnny Mathis proud:

A compost ready stimulus

“Yes, it’s over, call it a day….
Sorry that it had to end this way.
No reason to pretend
We knew it had to end some day, this way“………