Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Deep Black Earth

Fall is a wonderful time for the gardener.  I am in love with the richness of the season and the potential I can feel for next year.  While most of the garden around here is settling down into dormancy, there are still some things to do.  

I'm very happy with my little trees, all of which I planted (or transplanted) when they were tiny.  A walk around the yard shows the hawthorne, crabapple, river birch and redbud all much taller than me.  One of my two hollies, below, (both "found" as seedlings)  turned out to be female so now I'm enjoying her bright red berries!  The male is about chest high, nice and bushy, while the one pictured below is about 2 1/2 feet tall.  I planted them both when they had about 4-5 leaves and were a few inches tall. 
Here's something I started finding in and around my gardens which was new to me (below).   This one is in a little sapling which decided to grow next to my compost area.  It's an egg case of a praying mantis.  While it looks kind of foamy, it's very hard and dry to the touch. I love seeing them, since I love having praying mantises around.  
Not too long ago, a friend of mine who lives in "Pennsylvania Dutch country" mentioned some lore about these egg cases:  the height of the cases above the ground shows how much snow we are going to get this winter!  I'm hoping this is just an old "wives' tale" because this egg case was at my eye level!!!!

On beautiful Fall weekends, I love to get outside and get something accomplished.  The last weekend I was at home, the weather was phenomenal--mostly sunny with temperatures in the high 60's and no wind. Almost all of my trees' leaves were down, so I decided to start some deep black composted soil for next year's garden.  As I raked, I was a little bit torn--I think that the leaves are really needed around the side yard because the soil is so sandy that the grass can't grow in some parts.  

But grass isn't my thing, so I raked.  Between the big cherry out front and the two maple trees on the side, I easily gathered several huge piles.  Using an old trick from my former father-in-law, I raked the piles onto an old double sheet and used it to transport the leaves to the compost area--I think it was 6 trips!  

So I pulled the semi-composted grass cuttings and vegetable parings out of my compost "bin," piled the leaves in, and intermittently tossed the old stuff on top.  In the end (and I pulled out the tape measure because my estimates are unreliable) my pile of leaves mixed with the started compost is 5 ft. tall, 7 ft. wide and 6 ft. deep--officially big enough it to create its own heat, from what I've read!  
By the time Spring returns, (with a couple of turnings probably) I should have some beautiful, deep black earth to mix into my mediocre soil for my herbs, flowers and vegetables to enjoy.  Can't wait!

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