Sunday, October 23, 2011

Recycling Nature, How We Spent Our Weekend

   It's that time of year, leaves are piling up everywhere, lawns, driveways, sidewalks. What's a gardener to do? They all won't fit in the compost tumbler, and you certainly don't want to bag them and toss them in the landfill. (Shame on you if you do!) Have you ever noticed the best soil is in a forest? Why? Because the leaves fall and that's where they stay until they decompose. I've been studying and thinking all summer long about what I can do with the leaves, and at the same time reading a lot (mostly on all of your blogs) about the benefits of reducing or eliminating lawns. And so it began.
   This weekend Jeff and I took advantage of the idyllic weather and raked up all the leaves and pine needles that had fallen already and began distributing them. We have grandiose visions of planting up the entire back yard but there's way too much turf to dig up and we'd like it to evolve over time. Smothering the grass as we go seems like the best option, and that's where the leaves come in. We're starting under the oak tree along the fence, where the grass is sparse anyway. What better to mulch under an oak with than oak leaves!

We started with the leaves on the ground nearby...
Then added some we raked up from the lower end of the yard...
And this morning I covered the area with netting and added some logs to hold it down and define the area.
   Project Grass-B-Gone has begun. There is/was grass growing right up to the base of the trunk, but I neglected to get a real "before" picture. As more leaves fall we will rake them into the pile and extend the logs out.
   The logs themselves are another recycling item. Every time a limb falls from a tree or if a tree is blown over, we use the wood for something. The bigger pieces I use for edging the boundary between planting beds and lawn. The smaller pieces get tossed onto a brush pile out under our bird feeding area. Brush piles are much appreciated by small critters like birds and chipmunks as a safe scurry spot, and as a great place to hunt for insects.

The beginnings of my brush pile, I've already seen a chipmunk checking it out
An exquisite piece of yard art, it's hollow all the way through, a perfect scurry spot

   One more thing you can recycle is bark, especially if you can get it in big chunks. What can you use it for, you ask? How about using it to hide ugly well heads. There's a dead tree over at dean whose bark is falling off in big strips, so Jeff brought some home and placed it around the well to disguise it. The well is right in the middle of our berry garden and we can't plant anything right up next to it in case it ever needs to be accessed. I think it looks better now, needs some more bark though, we want it to look like an old tree stump.

   Eventually we'd like to fill in this area with Winterberry Hollies, Viburnums, and maybe Virginia Creeper on the fence. All berry producers for our living birdfeeder section. Right now all we have is a Crabapple and a few Blueberry bushes, just enough to keep our resident Mockingbird occupied.


  1. Please don't laugh at our little trees and bushes. We are still learning and adding new plantings cautiously. We have high hopes for our little home habitat and want to add quality specimens as we find them and our tastes evolve. (And as we find plants that will grow on our dry our rock- hard soil).

  2. Woooo hoooo! Justin Townes Earle! You guys know the good stuff!!

  3. What a great day of work - it was a beautiful day to be outside here as well.

    I am a fan of brush piles as well and have several myself. Had some trees removed a few years ago and the crew offered to take my brush pile as well - I said don't you dare!

    I don't know what a "well head" is but you have disguised it nicely. And what a fabulous oak tree you have - what species is it, do you know?

  4. Are you a "city girl"? ;) A well head is the top of our water well. Most county and city residents here have municipal water, but we are fortunate that we have a well, good clean water.

    Actually, I haven't been able to identify the oak, it was already here when be bought the house. Strange thing is, it doesn't make any acorns. We have two others in the yard that don't either, they look to be the same kind and age, probably planted when the house was built. Makes me sad. I want acorns and so do my critters.

  5. Nope, not in the city, but the folks with their own water are few and far between. We do have a septic tank! We don't have any street lights, we have to contract for our own garbage pick up and deer roam the streets in packs .... I guess well water might be nice ... unless the pump broke.

    For oak identification, this field guide might be helpful:

  6. You go Ellen! You don't have to take no sass from Little Miss Well Head!

  7. Great before and afters Julie. Your trees are going to love all that nice leaf litter underneath. And the wellhead, very creative! We had two wells on our property which we recently capped since we also have city water. Mine used to stick up like that too but they were able to cut it at ground level with the capping.

  8. Great new planting! No reason for anyone to laugh, Jeff. Just wait until it fills in and you add to it!

    I love the idea of hiding the well head. Having just moved to the country four years ago, I had to deal with one too--but I call it a well cap. :) I put some driftwood on mine. Great minds think alike.