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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