Jack Frost

Today, December 6th, was the first true frosty day of the season in my garden.   Unlike the first few times this fall when I awoke to an ultra thin layer of dusty white, this was that thicker, heavier blanket that almost resembles snow.  Leaves on the bushes and trees were drooping in that weighted down way signifying the true onset of winter.  Now it feels like my garden and I have been given permission to rest a little.  Mr. Frost says, “ Now you can relax!  Stop trying to hang on to the hope that a few more days of fall will warm the leaves to entice a few more roses to bud out!  Give it up!  Let it go! Go sit by the fire and read a good book!”

Of course, just because the growing season is over and most of the food storage and preservation is finished doesn’t mean my work is done.  Throughout the next few months of winter there will be plenty of projects to attend to in preparation for spring, and the garden will still need tended too, pruned, tidied up and cared for in a variety of ways.  I’ll continue to dream and plan and budget for my future projects.  Like a farmer, a true gardener or backyard farmer doesn’t abandon the garden over the winter just because the weather can be uncomfortable.  Just like any relationship, you have to nurture it to keep it happy and healthy no matter what the weather is like. I really relate to the way this poem describes the thoughts of the gardener over the winter.  He truly understands and appreciates the winter climate for how it nurtures his garden: 

He Knows No Winter

He knows no winter, he who loves the soil,
For, stormy days, when he is free from toil,
He plans his summer crops, selects his seeds
From bright-paged catalogues for garden needs.
When looking out upon frost-silvered fields,
He visualizes autumn’s golden yields;
He sees in snow and sleet and icy rain
Precious moisture for his early grain;
He hears spring-heralds in the storm’s ‘ turmoil­
He knows no winter, he who loves the soil.

-SUDIE STUART HAGER

LEAVES

I gathered three truck loads of leaves this year for my garden from people around the neighborhood.  I usually wait until the last weekend before the city comes to pick up leaves.  That’s when people bring their bags of leaves out onto the street.  I’ll then store the bags out in my backyard along the fence until I’m ready to spread them out over my beds, leaving some for layering into my compost over the winter.  Most of the bags are already shredded up.  The ones that aren’t I’ll just pour out over the lawn and shred up myself with my lawn mower.  I do not mix the shredded leaves into my soil.  They are left on top to provide a cover that will not only prevent the rain from leaching the soil but also provide a natural layer of mulch to keep the soil moist the following summer.  Some people shred and then compost their leaves in a pile for use in the spring, but I don’t see the point in waiting.

I like this simple chart that shows what this man does with his leaves:

http://www.hereandthere.org/making-mulch/making-mulch-from-leaves.html

Even though I know there is a risk that some of the leaves have fallen onto someone’s lawn that has been sprayed and fertilized at some point, I am not too worried.  They’ve only been on the ground anyway for a couple weeks at the most.  I’m more worred about whether the leaves are from black walnut trees or other varieties that retard vegetable growth. It’s important to know your leaves and not use the wrong ones on areas where you grow veggies.  Here are two websites that do a good job of explaining about the toxicity of Black Walnut trees and leaves. One contains some good photos of black walnut leaves for identification:

http://www.whyy.org/91FM/ybyg/fallleaves.html
http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1148.html
http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/senior/fruits/blackwalnut5.htm

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