Monday, November 17, 2014

Fall Cleanup on Aisle 4

On Saturday, we gathered up a bunch of the leaves in the backyard, as well as the leaves that the neighbor in the rear was going to put out at his curbside.  Of course, this was Mr. You-need-to-use-chemicals-on-the-lawn, and he couldn't figure out why I would want his leaves... "They'll sour the soil" he said. 

I've learned to disregard most of what he says on the topic of gardening and lawn care.
We piled up the leaves and I (hubby disappeared into the house) proceeded to run over them with the mower, tossing each bag of chopped leaves up into the main bed of the veggie garden. right up to the top of the concrete block .  So, we now have a 3-4 inch deep layer of chopped leaves on top of the dirt.  I also scattered eggshells I'd been saving all over the bed before topping it off with the leaves.

I have no idea where this myth of leaves "souring" the soil came from. Everything I have been reading indicates that chopped up autumn leaves is an excellent mulch.  There are two blogs I peruse quite often that have wisdom on this topic.  Their gardens are GORGEOUS.

Kevin Jacobs at A Garden for the House says "No room on your property for a big pile of leaves? Then shred the material, just as I do. Shredded leaves can be used immediately. You can till them into the soil, or, if you have a no-till policy (like me), just dump them onto your garden beds as mulch." Take a look at these links for where he uses these shredded leaves:

Margaret Roach at A Way To Garden says "LEAVES make great leaf mold when composted to add organic matter to beds. Maybe start a leaves-only compost pile, and use the proceeds as mulch next year? Running over dry leaves (and other dry non-woody material) with the mower to shred will reduce the area needed, and speed its breakdown."

Take a look at this video from Fine Gardening magazine.   The short article that accompanies it states "A two- to three-inch layer of leaves spread over a garden plot gives several benefits. Leaves hold down weed growth, add organic matter, and protect garden soil from compaction caused by rainfall."

Here's another article that says "Leaves can be used alone as a mulch but tend to blow away in windy locations and can be washed from beds during heavy rain showers. Leaves do best as a mulching material when they’re shredded. Non-shredded leaves and grass clippings can form a thick mat that makes water penetration nearly impossible.  If you don’t have a shredder, don’t worry. Leaves can be shredded using the lawn mower."

Even the Scott's fertilizer company endorses mulching leaves into the lawn, though you won't catch me using any of their products on my grass & weeds.  I ran over whatever leaves were left on the lawn with the mulching mower.

I'll follow up on this experiment in the spring.

In other news, on Sunday I finally dug up those calla lily tubers and put them, the gladiolus corms, and amarylis pots to bed in the basement.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Winter is coming?

Tomorrow I'll be saying "Winter is here."  The temperature is predicted to drop from mid-60's to mid-40's.  There are some last minute gardening chores to be done (yeah, those callas haven't gotten dug up yet), but I'll be pretty much done with the outdoors until the February thaw - hence the name change on the blog.  I'm making lots of soup already!

Mind you, this is a rough stab at the recipe, as I make soup the old-fashioned Grandma Konecko way - I taste it as I go and adjust as needed.

Chicken Soup

For the base:
  • Roasted chicken bones (I recently used a 3 lbs pack of chicken backs, which I was very happy to find.  I often use saved bones left over from spatchcocking whole birds, but it takes a whle for me to get enough for a pot of soup)
  • 2 quarts chicken stock/broth/water
  • 12 whole peppercorns
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 medium yellow onions, quartered
  • 2 stalks celery, broken into pieces
  • 2 carrots, broken into pieces
  • 4 whole sprigs fresh dill
  • kosher salt to taste
Simmer together for a couple hours, then strain out all of the solids - return the stock to the pot

To finish:
  • chicken meat (I pick it off the roasted bones, but you can use about 1/2 lb chopped cooked breast/thigh meat)
  • 2 more stalks of celery and 2 more carrots, chopped relatively small 
  • a few handfuls of egg noodles, fillini, or other pasta
  • kosher salt to taste
  • a sprig or two of dill, chopped (leaves only)
Cook the celery and carrots until they begin to soften, add chicken, and noodles (my husband likes "homestyle" where the broth gets a little starchy - Mom and I always made the noodles separate and added later).  Finish with some fresh dill after taking off the heat.

Monday, November 3, 2014

First Frost

Undeniably, the wheel of the year rolls around.  The cars had a light coating of frost this morning. 

I pulled up my gladiolus bulbs a couple weeks ago, they're all cured and ready to have the tops lopped off to make their trip down to the basement tonight.  The amaryllis are heading down too.  I have to dig up a lot of calla lilies this weekend - the foliage has started to yellow, it is time.

Daylight savings time (what a hoax) is finally over.  It is nice to see the sun up before 7 PM, but I fear the time is coming when sun will not be up by the time I get home.