I love to grow vegetables. And my favorite way to grow vegetables is the “natural” way, which means I don’t put any artificial additives in the soil. There was a time when I relied on manure for fertilizer, but I’ve switched to pure compost.
Well, mostly pure.
We have a compost pile, and that receives all of our kitchen waste: vegetable snippings, coffee grounds, egg shells. Absolutely no meat… meat in the compost is bad juju from the nasty microbes that eat animal flesh. Fish stuff is OK if you put it straight in the ground before planting, but no bird or mammal meat. In addition to all the kitchen waste, a healthy helping of leaves and all the weeds I yank from the garden go into the compost pile. Some folks take a pitch fork and turn the pile occasionally to speed up the composting action; but I usually end up just letting the creepy crawlies chow down and make the compost for me.
This practice has turned me into an avid leaf collector. My “prize leaf ” is a 1971 maple that really makes me proud. A nice bowl of leaves are really great with milk and sugar too! High fiber.
OK, I may be fooling… But seriously folks, I used to traipse around the neighborhood and pick up bagged leaves in the fall. Many, many trailer loads. People tell me, “Oh God!! Don’t use oak leaves!!! They have too much acid!!” And I reply, “No!! This is bull mahookey old fairy tale nonsensical rumor badness!! There’s no such thing as bad leaves in the garden!!” And they cry and roll on the ground.
Oak leaves have a high calcium content, and are pretty substantial compared to leaves like maple that break down more quickly. Earthworms LOVE oak leaves, and earthworm manure is alkaline, so a balancing effect occurs when oak leaves are added to the soil. Back to running around the neighborhood to collect leaves, these days I’m blessed with friends who bring me leaves from their yard and dump them out behind the garden for me. And if I go through all those (which I often do) I make “emergency runs” to the local transfer station, which we affectionately call “the dump.” People bring their leaves there, and the pile even gets turned regularly so there’s lots of compost available, free for the taking.
I have only one complaint about all these free composting items. Trash. There is always at least some trash in the leaves, whether they come from the dump or are given to me by my friends. Sometimes I find “interesting” items, like soda cans, candy wrappers, hunks of Styrofoam, even found the remains of a cell phone once. My very “favorite” type of trash are the fake leaves that get mixed in with the real ones. I’ll bet plastic leaves take a few thousand years to break down. Oh and on a side note: you know those little sticky labels on green peppers, avocados and the like from the grocery store? I’ve been guilty of forgetting to remove them before the remains go in the compost. Then of course I find them later, either while scooping compost during planting time or yanking weeds. I’m pretty sure those stupid labels will be here when the archaeologists come.
I’ll continue to use the dump as my primary source of compost material. So to my dear friends, and to all who bring their leaves to the dump, thank you. But please, keep the trash at home.
It doesn’t just doesn’t make good fertilizer.
And now, a video that’s not a video, but a song. Our grandson would express frustration on cartoon night when I’d slip in a music video; and his annoyed voice would ring out, “Papa, you like songs!!” Anyway, this is from a band from yesteryear called Spirit. The name of the song is “Fresh Garbage.” And the lyrics are…
Look beneath your lid some morning,
See those things you didn’t quite consume.
The world’s a can for your fresh garbage.