African Garden + work

On Leaf Mold, A Use For Landscape Fabric, and a Leaf Vac
Maianthemum racemosum/Smilacina racemosa

Dear readers - After days of temperatures in the 90s (30sC), the weather has finally moderated, allowing yours truly to head to the Scary Back Corner (SBC) of the garden where the compost and leaf mold bins reside. The majority of the mosquitoes hang out back there, with the result that I've avoided the area until I could venture back there wearing pants. The time has come to take the finished leaf mold out of the bin, making way for the new shredded leaves I've already started collecting with the new leaf vac.

The old Black & Decker died last fall after a long life of much abuse from cottonwood twigs and too many sodden leaves. I considered getting a leaf shredder, but rejected that idea after spending an hour hand picking cottonwood leaves out the beds in the woodland garden. The rake was useless. Why, you ask, do I bother to pick up leaves in the garden, as they will break down into leaf mold on their own. Au contraire, mon frere . Not when the particular leaves are from the cottonwood tree. Large, leathery, they would commit planticide by smothering anything unfortunate enough to be lying beneath them after a rain.

I really question whether they'd bother to break down at all if I didn't shred them before putting them in the leaf mold bin.
The bin was filled to overcapacity last fall, so the leaves which were not used as winter mulch were stored in leaf bags over the winter. Any of those that weren't used as spring and summer mulch were added to pile as it shrank. The extreme heat (extreme for those of us who had to deal with -15F/-26C six months ago) has cooked it all down to an unrecognizable brown substance that's good for conditioning the soil and for retaining moisture around plants. I store it in a large plastic bin with a lid.

I'm extremely pleased with my new leaf mold bin system. Last fall I moved the bin from a more prominent position in the garden to the SBC. Before the move, I had to deal with tree roots (probably from the above-reviled cottonwood) invading the bin and ruining some of the leaf mold. To avoid that problem, I put the bin on an old piece of stockade fencing on concrete blocks, then lined the bottom of the bin with landscape fabric to keep the leaf mold from falling through the gaps in the fence. It worked like a dream. No nasty roots, and the leaf mold was easy to scoop out.
I have to say I'm not loving the new leaf vac, a Homelite blower/vac. I can't find a comfortable position in which to hold it that doesn't strain my back.

Position "Not Comfortable"

The entire weight of the machine is felt in the hands and arms and the weight of the bag on one side causes back strain.
The heat and lack of rain also prevented me from dealing with some of the weeds. It was painful to have to avert my eyes from this big boy until after a half-inch rain fall.

I got most of it out. I really don't know how I allowed it to get so large. This has been a lousy summer for the garden and the gardener. Good thing it's almost over.

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On Leaf Mold, A Use For Landscape Fabric, and a Leaf Vac + work