Friday, November 17, 2006

Savoring Leaves

How do we use the abundance of leaves that arrive on our lawns each fall (well named)? The easiest activity is raking those near a ground cover into the ground cover. The periwinkle at the back of my property is nourished by leaves from above and leaves that I rake into their midst. You can do the same with ivy, packasandra, or strawberry ground cover. Indeed, for many years, until folks began making Halloween straw available free, my strawberries had to make do with leaves for their winter cover. (Now they are mulched each winter with straw, as their name indicates they should be. Strawberries bear more fruit when winter mulched with straw.)

The most needed thing to do with fallen leaves is to rake them under bushes and shrubs. My decorative mountain laurel and Andromeda and my raspberry bushes are fertilized by leaves. The all do well. They need more than just the nearby leaves, so I put lawn leaves into a garbage barrel and pour them on these, and I also take bags of others' leaves and pour them abundantly around shrubs and bushes.

It amazes me that I sometimes see people taking leaves AWAY from the roots of shrubs, especially if it's on my township's property, using up my tax money for both the taking away of nature's fertilizer and for buying chemical companies' substitutes. The latter pollute our ground water; Montclair draws some of its drinking water from wells. How do others feel about people putting poisons on their property that will eventually get into our drinking water? Shouldn't we insist that people nourish trees and shrubs only with fallen leaves? Is it just their own business when they do otherwise? (It also bothers me especially when I see this happening on the property of religious institutions, polluting the only planet that God is likely to provide for the human race.)

I also rake leaves onto my front yard flowers. I raised the chrysanthemums from seed 20 years ago, and they still thrive with only fallen leaves as fertilizer. About twelve years ago the tree in front between our street and front sidewalk was planted, along with the one across the street and across the driveway. Because I have been raising flowers under ours, I have put leaves and compost under it. Originally it was by far the smallest and weakest of the three; it leafed out two weeks after the other two the spring after they were planted. Before long it was startlingly bigger than the others. Norman Pierson, the late arborist of Montclair, remarked before he died about five years ago that it was a dramatic example of the effects of natural fertilizing.

I save leaves to interweave with "green" matter (kitchen and garden waste) in my compost heap during the next year. I use the compost both in my garden and hand-scattered on my lawn when it looks a bit hungry. That is all the fertilizing my lawn has had since I planted it in 1987. It is lush and nice without those expensive items the corporations want to push on us.

Fred brings me 100 bags of others' leave each fall. At about 20 pounds per bag, that's a ton of leaves that have disappeared onto our property (not counting our own considerable leaves) each year for about 20 years.

It amazes me that others waste their abundance by putting them into bags and having them taken away. Waste not, want not. Besides, it's great fun to collaborate with nature's plan.


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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Zucchini sex and more Rabbit tales

Zucchini flowers have appeared in the early morning, pretty and tasty, either raw or mixed with eggs. Late in the morning they have gone. Youth is fragile and fleeting.

They come in two sexes, and God's plan is that bees take the pollen from the males to the females while doing their own thing. Sometimes humans want full-grown zucchini faster than bees accomplish. Such a human can pick the male plant, nibble around the petals, and make sure the female has her male satisfaction. This human just did that today.

How do you tell which is male and which is female? There are generally more males than females, and they come sooner. They bloom on simple stems. The females have fetus zucchini sitting behind the blossom and they look – well -- more female. It takes about five days after sex therapy for the adult zucchini to be harvestable. I'm excited!

My tiny rabbit was (I think) considerably larger when I saw her about ten days later. She was in the inner garden again! I chased her around, and this time she ran up to the fence several times and turned back, the picture of panic. Finally, she squeezed between the fence and the "gate" that I had not firmly fastened at the bottom. I carefully fastened it to the fence, and I haven't seen her again. The "gate" is a foot high, so I step over it, but rabbits aren't supposed to be able to do that.

Meanwhile, while I was sitting reading on an old-fashioned chaise lounge with plastic webbing outside the garden, I saw a HUGE rabbit at a distance. It was about a foot long, not counting the head. I watched it in amazement, until I thought it was watching me. It's hard to be sure you are having eye contact with a rabbit. I tore my eyes away because I wanted to accomplish what I had set out to do.

It began coming toward me. Now I was sure we were looking at each other. It walked within a yard of the chair, and I felt a slight fear at this large critter -- a fear that amused me at the time. Then it hopped to maybe ten or fifteen feet away, turned around, and began coming toward me at a startling speed. I was even more amused at my even heightened fear. It ran under my chair and hit my bottom in an emphatic bounce upward that I could clearly feel through the plastic webbing.

Then it turned around, started to speed toward me again, and this time went under my legs, bouncing upward toward them so that my legs could feel the rabbit "hitting" them. I waited for more, but it turned around briefly to say goodbye, and then disappeared into a neighbor's yard.

The Easter bunny was back yesterday, looking startlingly normal compared to her small and large relatives. She just sat and looked at me from about six feet away for over ten minutes. I was surprised at how sad I felt when she left me. Rabbits are fun.


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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

March activities: peas, seedlings, robins, preparing soil

It's peas-planting season! I usually start on March 4, but we had a snow-cover then, so I started a week late. I keep planting first Sugar Ann's and then Sugar Snap peas until early or mid-April. They taste mighty good come June (or late May)! Sugar Ann's are earlier and don't climb, so you just put them in the soil. Sugar Snaps are even sweeter, but they need a fence or poles to climb, so that is work if you don't already have a climbing place. Some people have grown them on decorative trellises near their front steps.

I have a plethora of broccoli seedlings, so I put three out on March 11 under floating cover. The great wind removed the cover, but when I came home from my trip to New England, they were still alive! I planted three more without the floating cover this past Saturday, but I fear they won't "make it." Perhaps they need a start in greater warmth -- or maybe the new ones will make it after a rocky start.

Indoors, my Malabar spinach finally germinated after about a month of meditation in potting soil. Also eggplant and peppers in a slightly less leisurely way. The sweet 100 tomatoes I planted in early February are four inches high and looking promising. It's a good time for reasonable gardeners to start any of these. I'm pushing the season since we seem to be getting earlier.

Meanwhile, robins are eating the holly berries right outside my study window. Pretty!

If you want some exercise, this is a good time to dig in compost -- or ashes from your winter fires. It's also a good time for double digging, especially if you are starting a new garden.

Now I will go outside and plant some more peas! One, two, three... each separate about two inches apart and about two inches deep. It's a big job to plant as many peas as I do, and it takes several "sittings." But they freeze very well and taste great both in June and in the winter. Besides, isn't it fun to get your hands into the soil in March?


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