Leaves are the life blood of the garden. They provide most of the volume of finished compost. I collect hundreds of bags every fall to use when composting takes off in the spring. No matter how many bags I collect, I always run out of leaves by the middle of August. These leaves will provide me with a couple thousand gallons of compost next year. If I don’t collect leaves in the fall I will not have the necessary brown material to successfully compost next year. I suggest everyone stock pile as many leaves as they can get.
For years I have traveled to the avenues and filled up my pickup with many loads of leaves. I’ve also routinely searched my local neighborhood for the bags stacked on the side of the road and several family members and friends always donate their leaves to me. It seems each year I have to travel less and less for my leaf supply as more and more people are calling me for leaf pickup and I am also getting deliveries of leaves to my home. People seem to love the idea of someone composting even if they are not doing it themselves.
As I discussed in an earlier blog about replacing my in ground trampoline, I used to store all my leaves in the big hole in the backyard.
Now that I have replaced the trampoline, I have to find new homes for all the leaves.
Right before last week’s snowstorm, I got a call from a neighbor who was watching a yard crew raking up her neighbor’s leaves. She requested the lawn company stack the bags in her driveway for me. I did not have a chance to get over to pick them up timely so I gave her a call to tell her I would be coming to get them the next morning. I could not have a conversation with her as she was laughing hysterically. She told me she had quite a surprise for me and she was not kidding. With my great luck, the big snow storm hit that night which buried the bags. I quickly got the joke as there was easily 70 or so bags of leaves for me to pick up. To most people that seems like a ridiculous amount of leaves to store but that is just a drop in the bucket for what I have in mind. Four pickup loads across the street to my backyard fence were necessary to move all the leaves. My backyard buts up to a busy road so I just had to chuck the bags over my six foot fence. As you can see in the top picture of this blog, it made quite a pile.
Additionally I had another friends call with 25 bags to pick up and I had three other neighbors drop off bags of leaves. All in all I have collected about 160 bags and I have yet to finish raking and bagging my own leaves. I will continue to hunt for more bags this week, weather permitting.
While moving the bags off the grass, I uncovered many large night crawlers which the chickens had a hay day eating. The worms were so plentiful that the chickens quickly became too full to keep eating and they refused the free handouts.
With the surplus of leaves I decided it was time to winterize my worm bins. I put one last supply of kitchen scraps in the bins and then filled the bins with leaves to feed and keep the red worms insulated during the cold winter months.
With the early big snowfall, the grass growth is over for the season, thus I do not have the green material I need to fill my compost bins with the right ratios of materials. I do have about a foot or so of worm rich compost in each bin so I filled the bins with leaves to keep the worms toasty and reproducing during the winter.
I have read several magazine articles that say red worms cannot survive outside in the winter. This is not true as for many years I have successfully kept red worms in my outside bins with thick layers of leaves for food and insulation.
The chickens are enjoying the recent warming trend and they are out searching for the last of the green material and insects.
Chickens do very well in cold weather, much better than they do in hot weather. All I had to do to winterize the coop was to plug in the electric water heater base and I turned on a low watt bulb in the coop to keep the chickens laying eggs. I also cleaned out the coop and run one last time and I will keep piling on additional floor litter to keep the pen insulated during the winter. Most people do not clean the coop at all during the winter, simply adding more floor material using the “deep litter method”. The chicken poop and wood shavings will compost adding additional warmth to the coop. The cold weather keeps the material from smelling.
Lastly, I still have a bed of green onions and swiss chard still producing which should continue growing for the next month or so. I have also used leaves to insulate my garlic bed.
I still have several more projects to complete to get the yard fully winterized including tackling the front yard clean-up and raspberry pruning which will be the subjects of future blogs. The leaves are still falling from the trees so more raking and bagging will be in my future. Keep them coming.