A Journey to Grow a Little Food Close to Home

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Late Fall Prep for Earlier Spring Planting

I don't know about you, but here in the midwest, after we've waited for months for the snow to melt and the ground to thaw, us growers want nothing more than to go out and get our hands dirty! Every year we try to push the calendar a little bit farther. The nip might still be in the air; our fingers might be stiff with cold as we dig through the earth with the same emotion as if we were seeing a long-lost friend but our excitement simply can't be contained.

Then, like a bad dream, we are jolted awake but the reality of soil prep. As the dissapointment sinks in that we can't plant just yet, we set to work on digging and adding compost.

But is doesn't have to be this way!

Right now, with autumn in full swing, you and I have a huge opportunity - we can prep our gardens now!! If you've got trees in your yard...even better - FREE COMPOST!!

As trees drop their leaves in fall, there is a wonderful opportunity waiting for us. With some of these

and one of these

amazing things can happen!!

Here's the scoop. The tool made by Toro is typically used as a leaf blower. With the added attachments, though, it functions as a leaf vaccuum!! The best part is that as it sucks the leaves up, it also shreds them. This not only condenses a leaf pile tremendously, it also speeds the breakdown of the leaves (i.e. faster dirt!!).

I don't have a big yard (though I do have a huge oak tree) so the handheld tool works fine. If you have a bigger space, you may need something larger.

Ok...on with the bed prep. First, the top layer of soil needs to be dug up to make room for the leaves

Here's another look at the difference between a dug bed and a full one

Where did all of that dirt go, you might ask. Onto another part of the garden, of course (but only temporarily).

Ok - now it's time to vaccuum leaves. After sucking/shredding the leaves, thay are dumped onto the garden...

...in a layer, in my case, about 8 inches deep!!

After dumping the leaves and spreading them out, they need to be covered with a layer of dirt to speed up the dirt-making (use the dirt which was dug out earlier)

Here it is completely covered

and again (vs. the dug area)

The only thing to remember about leaf vaccuums - they don't like sticks, twigs, or bark. For those, you'll need a bigger tool. Until then, though, I will be left with a pile like this

So...just a few more leaves to collect this year and then I'll have the whole garden prepped. In a few weeks, right before the freeze, I'll add a little menure and, after the winter freeze and spring thaw, this garden will be ready for an early spring planting!!

Note: over the winter I'll be doing many posts on prep, planning, and garden wisdom. I'll be referencing this post as I explore the concepts of intensive and extensive gardening/farming.

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