Some days this week just FEEL like spring...others remind us that its still, technically, winter. Those sunny days (or even just minutes) can easily be turned into productive gardening moments! On these early sunny days I get out into the garden and start collecting the leaves I've left languishing since last fall. Now before you judge me for my negligent fall cleanup, hear me out. For the past 5 years I have only removed fallen leaves from my grass and left large amounts scattered around the garden beds. This is for 2 reasons: 1. By October even I am sick of gardening and just want everything to DIE AND LEAVE ME ALONE. Leaving dead leaves and flower stalks to whither in the cold accomplishes just that. 2. Its better for your garden's ecosystem. Both birds and bugs need garden detritus to make it through the winter; fallen leaves provide shelter for the bugs that will keep your flowers and soil healthy next season and the seed heads left on flower stalks can provide important food sources for hungry birds during the long winter months.
Since lazy and tired Fall me intentionally left leaves on the ground, energized and sun seeking Spring me is ready to get out and collect them. Now, here's the best part...those leaves and flower stalks have spent the winter months feeding and sheltering birds and bugs as well as starting to turn into garden gold: Leaf Mold. Sounds gross but leaf mold is the equivalent to a hot oil scalp treatment...for the ground. When decomposed leaves are added to your garden soil, they help to condition it, making it fluffier and better able to maintain moisture and the bio-diversity you plants need (ie earth worms).
So, how to we make this amazing and free resource? Its so easy! Even easier (and WAY less smelly) than making compost! Simply gather up your leaves (in fall or spring - spring is better, as we explored above and because the leaves will have already started to decompose over the winter). Put your leaves into a black trash bag, poke a few holes in the bottom, dump in a few gallons of water ( I use non-soapy grey water), close and store the bags in some out of the way area that can get wet. Every few months shake the bags to aerate them and if they are dry, add a bit of water. Within 6-12 months these useless dead leaves will be fluffy, dark soil conditioner the likes of which your garden store charges real money for! Add your leaf mold to some compost and spread liberally over your garden bed next spring for supercharged soil that will pump out the blooms!
Happy (leaf) harvesting!