Fall is all around us here in small town Independence! The leaves are about halfway down and there is a chill in the air. The chickens have been molting so they are mostly bald. The cats have come indoors to snuggle by the fireplace. It’s my favorite time of the year because it a time of renewal and rest.
At the farm, fall was a welcome respite from the stressful, busy CSA season. No eggs or milk to process, no zucchini to pick. All there was left to do was bake, sleep, and watch the wind whip through the walnut trees. In this new little house there aren’t many reminders of the old farm life, but today I found myself really feeling farmsy.
The kids and I were taking advantage of a (mostly) sunny day to build a new warming fire in the backyard for Paul’s birthday. We all had our galoshes on, the rain was coming down lightly. Once they went down for nap, I came back out to feed the chickens and do some raking. The girls all escaped while I was cleaning out their waterer (!!!) and enjoyed a quiet afternoon kicking up dirt and pecking worms. Their gentle coos and clucks encouraged me along while I raked up some leaves for mulch around what will be my new flower beds. The sun was warm on my head, and my wet hands were pink and cold while I worked.
Our neighbor to the south has a small strip of land she isn’t using and agreed to let me put in a garden next spring. There is plenty of room for anything we need with enough leftover to share. The plot is extremely weedy and under-developed. I could wait until it dries out a little next spring and weed the whole thing by hand… but there is precious little time in the spring around here, and I’d really rather use that time to dig the beds and plant my seeds. So, the question becomes: How can I kill the weeds over the winter?
There are many ways to do this. There’s round-up, there’s plastic mulch, there’s a tiller, and there’s LEAVES! There are conservatively ten zillion leaves falling in my neighborhood right now. The lovely thing about leaves is that when they get wet, they kind of mat down and create a light-proof covering. Bad for lawns, great for weedy gardens. The leaf mat will block all the light, trap the water and kill almost all of the weeds. The worms will love them, too. They will also rot a bit in there and generate lovely compost that you can dig into the soil in the spring. It’s 100% natural and requires much less work than hand-weeding.
So here’s my tip: If you have some leaves, rake them up off your lawn and put anywhere you need the soil to be weed-free and plant-ready! If you want to kill off a part of your grass and put in raised beds or trees, go rake the leaves out of your NEIGHBOR’S yard and do the same thing 🙂 Two things to keep in mind. #1. Don’t use walnut leaves- they are a kind of plant poison. #2. Spread them out between 3 and 4 inches deep – they will be less effective if they aren’t deep enough.
What do you do to prepare your garden for spring? Do you wait until it warms up? Do you greenhouse garden or use coldframes? Plant bulbs and call it good? Leave a comment with your ideas…