A season deferred

    The recent Nor’easter caught me unprepared. I didn’t get all my houseplants indoors in time, resulting in sad pots of mush. Early morning saw me mittenless, clearing off the windshield with a CD jewel case in lieu of an ice scraper. In Philadelphia we normally would be at the height of autumn’s beauty, not already having been covered in a crust of snow.

    Our recent weather event aside, there is still a lot of autumn left. Including all the leaves that have yet to carpet our area, and will need to be somehow addressed.

    In the lovely green neighborhoods around Northwest Philadelphia there are a number of strategies for dealing with the huge amounts fallen leaves that homeowners contend with. Some people pay to have them hauled away; others line the streets with bag after bag of them, trash day sentinels.

    This is understandable from the homeowners’ perspective, for how are we supposed to deal with all this biomass? But it’s not the best for the garden. Almost all plants from our climate naturally grow in leaf litter, whereas if we mulch our gardens it’s usually with shredded bark. While plants will tolerate this, a blanket of leaves is what they prefer.

    The challenge is that leaves left alone take a long time to break down- fine in the forest, but not in a small garden, where the soggy masses lie around depressingly into summer and can actually smother some of the smaller plants.

    Shredding leaves is a strategy I’m trying this year. My neighbor had the genius idea of going in on a used gas-powered shredder. Now I’m vowing to break the cycle of removing leaves from my yard in the fall, and then turning around and paying to get mulch delivered in the spring.

    I imagine next year’s flowers bowing their heads to me in gratitude for making them so comfortable. My lawn will be greener, my trees healthier, my soil that much more friable every year.

    We’re always looking for that miracle ingredient, and yet we never do find it. Realistically, shredded leaves are probably not the end all solution that will obviate other interventions in my garden. But dreaming aside, if the machine works like it’s supposed to, it will mean half the hauling, none of the bagging, and will save me money after one season, and so I’m in. Now it’s about waiting for that snow to melt and the leaves to fall so I can try it out.

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