Last weekend was my first opportunity of the year to get down and dirty in my garden. It's been getting into the 50's here, and all of my crocuses have started popping up. They always take me by surprise, so that I have to carefully lift the mulch of leaves I left on from last Autumn. The earlier I lift the leaf cover, the better, as some of the flowers have speared through the dry leaves. Once their flowers have opened, it's sort of like trying to pull an open umbrella through a hole.
Why do I leave those leaves when neighbors all around me are banishing them with blowers? Simple. Leaves are a cheap mulch. My oak tree is more than happy to dump a ton of them onto the garden bed, so I don't have to lug bags around. They keep the ground insulated so that my plants don't heave in the freeze-thaw-freeze cycle. And as they degrade they add nutrients to the earth.
When I lift the leaves at this time of year, they are added to the compost pile. I have several compost piles cooking in my yard. To make the pile decompose faster, you can turn it regularly. My husband likes to help with that. I think it has to do with wielding a pitchfork. It's a very manly activity compared to weeding and planting flowers.
Of course, turning compost isn't necessary. The nice thing about compost is that it doesn't need any help. Eventually, everything breaks down and becomes rich black dirt. When we had to remove one of our trees after a windstorm, we kept a large pile of woodchips. I did some neat science-y things with the kids. We looked at some of the various fungi growing on the pile. I also shoveled into it to show how warm it was inside. That pile has diminished in size since we first made it, without any interference from us. If you are patient, dirt happens.
I hope everyone has a lovely green day!
Happy St. Patrick's Day!