There are three things Grumpy can count on happening every year in late November.
+ The Detroit Lions losing yet again in a traditional NFL contest on Thanksgiving that pits two sorry foes who don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of making the playoffs, but it’s cold outside so we watch anyway.
+ All of Judy’s family vying to see who can escape from hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the relatives. The competition is fierce and the stakes could not be higher.
+ The neighbor’s tree inundating my yard with a tsunami of slimy, brown oak leaves that threaten to smother both the grass and my cat. (Why can’t they just smother the squirrels? I’m down with that.)
I can’t stop the Lions from losing (it’s amazing what a team can accomplish when they dedicate themselves to a single goal). And I can’t stop Judy from considering having Thanksgivng dinner at the Cracker Barrel (who knew pecan pie and apple pie taste EXACTLY the same?) But I can put those slimy, brown oak leaves to good use. And so can you.
Free Organic Matter! Did You Hear That? Free!
Hydroponics aside, you can’t grow good plants without good soil. And no matter if your soil is mucky clay or worthless sand, the best way to improve is to add lots and lots of organic matter. Organic matter improves soil drainage and aeration, increases storage of moisture and nutrients, and makes things cozy and comfy for earthworms and microbes that stir and digest the soil and make its nutrients available to plants. Organic matter is brown gold.
So Stop Being So %^&*@#+ Stupid!
Do you bag your leaves? Do you rake them to the curb? Are you, in other words, a certified cretin? Leaves are a great source of organic matter. And they’re free! Why throw away good, free stuff in favor of peat moss, composted cow manure, and shredded bark from the garden center that costs money? Hello? Is there anybody home?
There’s something else besides tossing out good, free stuff that should make you suicidally guilty. Bagged leaves that should enrich the soil instead get tossed in landfills, WHERE THEY WILL NEVER DECOMPOSE. If you’re OK with that, I say we should bag you and put you out by the curb. In 200 years, people will marvel at how you still have hair.
+ Move to one of those enlightened communities that collects fallen leaves and composts them for their citizens. Or harass your own community into doing it. Composted leaves don’t wind up in landfills. They wind up as soil amendments in local gardens. Heck, I bet some smart guy can figure out a way to turn fallen leaves into biofuel.
+ Use an electric leaf shredder to turn leaves into mulch for your garden. Of all the mulches Grumpy’s used, finely chopped leaves are the best. They look great, they stay in place, they enrich the soil as they decompose, and the’re frickin free!!! The Flow-Tron LE 800 worked well for me. It shreds leaves using nylon line like a weed-whacker. True, it won’t chop sticks, it works so-so on pine straw, and clogs quickly if you use wet leaves. But chopping dry leaves is a breeze. The Flow-Tron comes with legs, but I mounted mine atop a trash can. In no time, I had a trash can filled with finely chopped leaves to mulch my beds. The fact that it’s electric means is starts quickly every time. You can order this baby from amazon.com for $129.99.
Just one thing — you can’t use this to get rid of a body like they did in “Fargo.” (Well, you could, but it would take approximately 27 years and innumerable line replacements to do the job.) Use a bonafide chipper instead. That’ll work. You betcha. Be sure to use protective eyewear and a surgical mask. Wouldn’t want you to catch anything.
+ Too cheap to splurge on a shredder? You can always chop leaves using your mulching mower. This works pretty well, although I’ve found that you need to empty the bag fairly often so that the leaves will be chopped uniformly.
+ If power equipment scares you, you can still avoid being a eco-terrorist. Gather your leaves in these new biodegradable mesh bags that are fully compostable. They’re cleverly named “dsolv,” and if you go to their dsolv website, you can listen to some lovely guitar music and chirping birds while they show you how the bags work. (By the way, the promo shot below makes the bags look 12 feet tall. They’re not. The girl is obviously only a foot tall — probably from eating leaves all of her life.)
Made from a plant-based polymer, each lightweight bag holds about 45 gallons of leaves. The starter kit contains 8 bags and costs $19.99. A set of refill bags costs $6.99. If you have mountains of leaves, you’d probably get off cheaper buying a leaf shredder, but hey, it’s your choice.
Promise me one thing, though. If you buy these compostable bags, don’t put them out with the trash. Even a compostable bag (including its contents) won’t break down in a compacted landfill where there’s no oxygen. Throw the bags on your home compost pile.
Now go stuff your face with turkey. It’s time to watch the Lions lose.