Mid-Atlantic

November, 2011
Regional Report

Shred and Use Autumn Leaves

If you've the time and energy, shredding fallen leaves makes for excellent, easy, immediate garden mulch. And fast composting. Several methods come to mind. I'm a gadget-kinda-gal so I like using my leaf blower converted to a leaf shredder. Last year, I sprang for a heavy-duty, electric-powered machine that doesn't clog easily with twigs or wet leaves AND has a large-enough, easy-to-attach-and-open holding bag. I prefer my older, light-weight model for blowing leaves into piles. Some people shred leaves with a lawn mower or upright machine. Whatever works for you. I immediately shake out the leaf bits as mulch along the garden's edge and as protection around tree peonies, and other marginally hardy plants.

Rake, Pile, and Wait for Spring

It's also fine to heap your leaves into one huge pile to decompose over winter into leaf mulch and mold. That saves time and energy now, yet has benefits come spring. I discreetly stash piles near where I'll use the leaf mold in March and April, somewhat out of sight between hedges and trees or in corners or along a fence line. The piles will compact to half-size or less and be closer to and easier to wheelbarrow to beds for weed control next spring. Shredded leaves decompose quicker, but that's not necessary. Microbes will break them down either way -- faster if in small pieces, slower if full-size.

Remove Ivy from Trees (and Walls)

This summer's rain seemed to force a lot of plant growth into overdrive. We're finding ivy (cut back in spring) halfway up tree trunks and nearly to the top of brick, stucco, and stone walls. Clip the stems and roots as near to the ground as possible. Allow the clinging stems to wither and die before pulling them off bark or buildings, so they don't rip off the bark or mortar or stucco when you tug hard.

Do A Good Gardening Deed

The holidays are for giving and giving thanks. The gift doesn't have to be purchased or expensive. "Thoughtful" can take many forms including doing a good gardening deed for a neighbor, relative, or friend. For example, offering to blow leaves from the yard, plant bulbs, or cut back overhanging branches from a pathway could be just what the person needs and will appreciate.

Take Back Your Walkways

Have your plants been usually brazen in growing out of bounds this rainy summer? I'm noticing hostas, daylilies, ivy, pachysandra, and vinca edging onto sidewalks and pathways to the point of taking over a third or fourth of the walking space! TAKE BACK YOUR WALKWAYS! Pull up the invaders or cut them back. Then use a spade to shovel the revealed soil back into the lawn or garden. You might well be surprised to see an extra 6 inches of space you'd forgotten you had.

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