Tag Archives: leaves

Let Trees Do The Work For Next Spring’s Garden

Oct. 10, 2012
Honor the Tree: Let it do the Work for next Spring’s Garden

People  who garden can always find things to do. Sometimes, it seems we have too little time to actually enjoy our gardens. So why waste time, or a  season, for that matter? You can get a head start on next spring’s  organic garden now
and free yourself for relaxation and enjoyment.
How? Take advantage of “free” vegetative matter to build up your next year’s garden bed with leaves.
Fall  brings leaves by the ton, not only in our yards but around our neighborhoods and, well, everywhere there’s a tree. People are busy  raking and
bagging them up, in fact, so they can be picked up in urban  areas to be thrown away. Country folk often just pile them up and burn  them. Why let this free vegetable matter go to waste? Or, worse, add to  pollution?
Think  for a minute: The trees took nutrients from the soil last spring and mixed with sunlight, air and water came up with these glorious leaves to  shade us all summer. That’s a lot of energy expended. That’s a lot of  soil nutrients.
Why dump it in a landfill?
Honor  the tree. Recycle! Ask your neighbor (if you are sure he or she hasn’t been spraying trees with poison) if you can take those piled leaves.
You  can just dump them in your garden, as thick as you like, and cover them with plastic (black or clear, doesn’t matter), and next spring you will  have
nicely composted leaves with added nutrients from the other yard(s) to your garden—free imported fertilizer. It should be decomposed  enough to mix with compost you have saved also to provide a rich, dark,  loamy growing medium ready
to plant.
It’s  also a great way to expand your garden. If, say, you have a 4-foot by 8-foot Jim’s plot and want to double it in size, just put down cardboard  or
layers of old newspapers (to block weeds) in the new area, and put  leaves on it and cover it with plastic. When you uncover it in  the spring, voila! New
garden!
It’s  called “lasagna gardening.” That is, layering paper or cardboard and leaves like lasagna to create a raised bed for plants. No tilling. No  muss, no
fuss.
Some  purists will say that one type of leaf—say oak, or pine or pecan—is too acidic or whatever to use in this way. Don’t worry about it. If you, as  I
always recommend, take a soil sample each spring to be tested for  fertility, pH, etc., you can determine exactly which amendments are  needed to produce the food you want to grow.
The  main thing is to not waste this opportunity. Now is the time to prepare for spring. Let the seasons do the work for you, so you can enjoy your  garden come spring.
Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

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Greens easy to grow for winter

Sept. 9, 2011
Greens easy to plant now for organic produce in winter
If you haven’t planted your fall garden yet, it’s not too late. For example, scuffing up a plot for greens is simple and will last until deep frost.
Just cut the old plants in your 4X8 “Jim’s Plot,” rake it up for your compost pile, and scatter mustard and turnip green seeds, and water.
Even a simple organic garden like that can keep you fed with fresh greens into the cold weather – maybe until January.
When frost comes, just throw a light blanket over it. (For more sophisticated gardens, it’s worth it to invest in Agribon, which comes in various weights, down to 6-8 degrees below frost.)
If you add collard greens, kale and cabbages to the mix, it’s possible to carry on picking greens even later.
Many swear that collards taste better after a frost with the purplish hue that signifies that on the leaves as a mark of distinction.
Last year, we had some plants – such as radicchio – survive into the teens, along with some beets (the leaves grew back and were delicious as greens). The radicchio, however, became quite bitter as time went on.
It doesn’t hurt to experiment.
We’ll continue this dialogue as the season progresses.
For now, have fun! It’s a great time to plant as the temperatures cool, and it will be even greater when you can pick fresh produce when the cold winds blow.
Reader feedback: My son is building me five 4×8 “Jim’s Plot” raised beds in our backyard and I seek your recommendations on what we should use to fill these beds. The beds are actually 24 inches off ground level – as he is using two 12×2 inch boards to build them.
You can buy topsoil at some of the local yard and garden stores in bulk by the yard. For a 4×8 plot it doesn’t take that much: for example, one cubic yard equals 27 cubic feet. It’s mostly ground up vegetative debris, so it’s not going to be really fine or fertile. But it will fill up your bed. You’ll only be using the top 5 inches or so of topsoil for most plants, so that’s where you want to concentrate.
Don’t feel like you have to actually fill the beds to the top. Start composting. When fall comes, rake and pile leaves for composting. Consider these beds as a beginning that you will add to over time, building up compost.
BTW: When you spread compost, only a quarter inch on the top is needed when it comes to fertility; any more is overkill. As it adds layer upon layer, it will develop the way you want.
Let me add, that five 4×8 plots is very ambitious. That would translate into tons of organic matter.Better to think small, and over time.
Till the ground in the beds and then add what you can to a 4-5 inch depth. Rotate your beds. Plant, say, one or two 4X8 plots for a fall garden, and fill the others with leaves, cover them with black plastic over the winter and let them compost down.
That way, you’ll have a deeper base to work from in the spring. Enjoy!

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.