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Gathering leaves out of the woods

Gathering leavesWith the driveway still impassable and the blueberries in need of mulch, I decided to rake some leaves out of the woods.  I'd been eying a spot on the southwest corner of our property for years since beech and oak leaves accumulate there in deep drifts.  I figured the most time-consuming portion of leaf gathering was the gathering part, so I headed to my remembered spot with our two huge chicken waterer mailing bags.

The leaf drifts didn't disappoint.  In fact, I scared a flock of turkeys who had gathered on Turkeysthe hillside for a similar reason (although they were scratching through the leaves for invertebrates rather than snagging the leaves themselves.)  In a matter of minutes, I had stuffed both bags so full they were bulging against the seams.  Then I picked one up...

...Or rather, tried to pick one up.  Who knew that a bag full of compacted leaves would be so heavy?  With a bag on each shoulder, I struggled up to the top of the hill, and then ended up dragging the leaves back down the other side.  (Not good for the bags --- I won't be repeating that part, but no way was I going to leave my organic matter behind.)

Appalachian hillsideThe last third of the way was on level ground with lots of logs to cross, so I had to leave one bag behind and come back for it later.  As I walked through the woods closer to home, I noticed smaller drifts, and resolved that my next leaf gathering expedition would be here --- clearly I was wrong about raking being the most time-consuming part of the project.

But I forgot all the pain and agony as I spilled leaves out onto my blueberry patch.  Each big bag held the equivalent of at least four of the trashbags full of leaves Mom gathered for me on the curb.  Since I've lined each blueberry bed in logs, I have high hopes the leaves will stay put (rather than blowing away), and I'm sure my blueberries will enjoy the the dose of micronutrients.



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Gathering leaves is one of my favorite things to do in the fall and winter. I have two "jumping barrels" made of fabric with a wire spring. When you unbutton the clasp at the bottom, they "jump" out to shape. Then I use my winnowing basket and a rake. The basket is the perfect size and shape- like a huge dustpan. Then I just tip the leaves in the barrel and carry it home by its convenient handles.

Last year I wasn't able to gather leaves, but hopefully this year will be better.

Comment by Eric in Japan Tue Jan 31 16:58:56 2012

We used one of those "jumping barrels" a few years ago. It was fun, but not as good as my duffel bag --- harder to mash the leaves in and much harder to carry by hand.

It's probably not too late to gather some leaves if you want some....

Comment by anna Tue Jan 31 19:38:39 2012
any thoughts comments or links about using fresh bracket fungi in your compost pile or directly in your garden bed.
Comment by Rein Tue Jan 31 22:24:47 2012

Fascinating question! I usually don't gather bracket fungi because --- unlike most fungus fruiting bodies --- they can live for decades rather than just spreading spores and withering up quickly. So I figure it's more equivalent to cutting down a tree than to plucking an apple.

That said, if you have bracket fungi for some reason, I'd probably consider them woody and maybe add them to a hugelkultur mound.

Comment by anna Wed Feb 1 08:52:47 2012
There are plenty of leaves to be gathered, but this year they are too radioactive in my area... I don't want to concentrate cesium in my garden.
Comment by Eric in Japan Wed Feb 1 09:59:36 2012
I can't believe I forgot! Yup, probably smarter to skip a year of leaf gathering.
Comment by anna Wed Feb 1 10:27:47 2012
I was wandering how the leaves would affect the pH of the soil in the blueberry beds. If you had access to pine needles, that would help raise the acidity of the soil to the blueberries liking while achieving the moisture and weed control of mulching. Just a thought.
Comment by Denis Wed Feb 1 19:46:51 2012

OMmmmmmmmmmmmm Got to love O.M. (organic matter)! I wonder if you've got some good mycorrhizae in those leaves. Mycorrhizae has been popping up in nurseries and garden stores out here in the west, but my hort. teacher says the best way to get it is to gather leaves.

Comment by Paula B. Wed Feb 1 20:32:59 2012

Denis - I did gather pine needles for the blueberries our first year --- they're definitely a great acidifying agent/mulch. Unfortunately, we only have a couple of pine trees on the property, and they're at the top of a steep hill. So I just couldn't talk myself into going back for such a small reward... :-)

Paula B --- One of the bags was heavier than the other because I ended up getting more of the decomposing leaves below the top layer. You can smell the actinomycetes in that duff, so I'm sure it's chock full of mycorrhizae. On the other hand, I'm not sure how much it'll help the blueberries --- they team up with an unusual kind of mycorrizae that doesn't live under forest trees. But when I gather more leaves for our fruit trees, I'm sure the mychorrizae will be a bonus.

Comment by anna Thu Feb 2 08:04:35 2012