Clearing the Way for Spring

Clearing the Way for Spring

I love leaves and even wrote a tongue-in-cheek poem, “In Defense of Leaves,” about them last fall, but it’s time to make way for spring and the flowers I love so much. I don’t clean my gardens up in the fall. I wait until spring to clear away the leaves and other debris left from the previous season.

Benefits of Leaves

There are contrasting opinions about whether leaves should be removed in the fall, or not. I prefer to try to work with nature and hold the personal belief that the leaves are beneficial to my garden. If you search the internet, plenty of articles will come up, but here’s one example from Fine Gardening that supports my practice.

When I first started transforming our front yard to a flower garden, it was mostly dirt. Without being fenced, it was a major thoroughfare for both animals and people. Years ago, my husband made a simple fence to protect my gardening efforts, and the front yard has steadily improved ever since. When it comes to gardening, I’m pretty patient. While some people might prefer to hire a landscaping company to come and plant everything and have it done, I enjoy the process of doing it myself, and waiting for things to mature to see if it looks the way I envisioned. With time I’ve been able to watch the health of the soil improve, and now when I dig in it I find a lot of earthworms which are a good sign. Sometimes they’re so large, I momentarily mistake them for snakes! Here’s a great article on earthworms by soilquality.org.

This is a before photo. Leaves tend to gather at this end of the garden.
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In the past I gathered them by hand, stuffed them in buckets, dumped those in my garden cart, and then took it down the hill and dumped that into my compost pile down in the chicken yard. But the heaping cart pulled me going down hill, and was tiring to push back up the hill, even empty.

The New Way

Last Spring my husband gave me the SunJoe Leaf Shredder for Valentine’s Day. I actually asked for it! I wanted to be able to shred the leaves right within my flower garden so that I could immediately use them around the base of plants, or scattered thinly over the ground as mulch.

Reading about it, I imagined it working just like I wanted, but worried that it might disappoint me. I’m happy to report that it worked exactly as I had hoped it would! It’s light-weight and easy for me to move around. It works like a string-trimmer, using a plastic “string” to quickly shred a batch of leaves. It’s designed so that you could put a bag or receptacle below it, but I’m just letting the leaf litter fall on the ground.

We have two huge oak trees in the front yard, so there are a gazillion acorns. I don’t attempt to scoop them all up. Blue Jays eat them, and if they happen to sprout I just snip them off.

Micro Gardening

I love sitting on a little stool and using my gloved hands to gather the debris. It may seem like doing it the hard way to many, including my husband, but I like to do it that way because I’m up close and personal with the ground. I discover new seedlings and growth poking up through the soil, and smell the dirt, leaves, and nearby flowers.

These Grape Muscari and Hyacinth smell heavenly.
I also love the happy clucking of some chickens foraging nearby.
Creeping Phlox smells pretty, too.

If I were standing up using a rake, I’d likely damage the things that I’m trying to grow. That’s why I like to take my time and be gentle. It’s just a little TLC that I give my flower garden. I think of it as “micro gardening.” I put the debris in 5-gallon buckets, and when they’re full I dump them into the Leaf Shredder and mulch them. It seems like it takes about 30 seconds. It’s really fast!Then I scoop up the mulch and put some around the base of bushes or scatter it lightly over the ground. I say lightly, because I plant some things by scattering seeds, and I also love plants that self-sow. Some seeds need light to germinate, so I don’t want them to be covered too much.

Finely shredded leaves
Surprises

I love surprises in the garden and I find a lot while gardening this way.

Asparagus!
Hostas emerging from their dormancy.
Somebody laid an egg in the front yard!

It does take some time to do it this way, but before long I have the garden tidied up and ready for spring. How do you clear the way for spring?

 

10 thoughts on “Clearing the Way for Spring”

  1. Most of the leaves that collect in our yard are these thick oak leaves that never really decompose. I’ve found they are the perfect camoflage for copperheads. So, I like to get them out of my flowerbeds. If I’m removing a LOT of leaves, I go over them with the lawn mower and catch the shreds in the clippings catcher, to go into a compost heap or mulch with them. This is my next task to do outside, and I’m not looking forward to the work…being honest. : )

    1. You are so right about the copperheads! I try to be cautious around leaves. Our front yard is surrounded by concrete and asphalt, plus we have lots of cats, dogs, and poultry, so I hope they don’t find their way into it. I wouldn’t gather by hand out in the yard. We now those.

  2. I love being up close and personal in the garden, finding tiny new sprouts and seeing how the soil has improved after all my efforts to do so. I recently pulled away the leaves I’d used to mulch the garlic over winter and found several of the shoots had grown right through the middle of a leaf.

    1. Same here. It never ceases to amaze me how a seemingly fragile shoot can cuts its way right through a leaf. I found quite a few daffodils that had done that. The garden is full of miracles.

  3. Yes, yes, yes – spring is right around the corner and your hostas and asparagus are proof! I also enjoy gardening without tools, just using my hands. It brings me closer to nature. Your daffodils are about a week ahead of mine and I just adore your muscari and grape hyacinths… they are gorgeous!

    1. Thanks, Vicki! We’re having a little spring snow as I write, but hopefully we can get back to flower soon. I’m glad to hear that you also enjoy getting up close and personal with your plants. What are your favorite spring plants?

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