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Trash to Treasure
October 28, 2019

Autumn's chilly grip tightened this past week.

The last two zucchini squash were turned into baked zucchini fries , this past Wednesday.

Green fried tomatoes were on the menu Saturday.

Finally, a killing frost Saturday morning, (for the most part).

Saturday was one raw day.

Clouds rolled in, dampness filled the air as a chilly breeze was blowing.

Around 4:00 PM, rain moved in for the duration.

This past Thursday, Karen and I took Yolanda and Karen's sister to visit Frankenmuth, Michigan.

Sis and Yolanda have never been there before.

Frankenmuth is Home of Bronner's, the world's largest Christmas store.

Literally acres of everything Christmas (I'll share a few pictures later on).

Yolanda's eyes soaked it all in.

For that moment, all was good.

I took several pictures to remind her (such is life of a brain injured person with short term memory).

The rest of Frankenmuth is a typical tourist town, with much of it being everything German.

We were blessed with a sunny day in the mid 50's F.

The sun allowed us to take in the many fall colors that Michigan has.

Michigan is blessed with the most species of trees than any state in America or Canadian province (thank you Ice Age).

As you can imagine, we also have a wide variety of fall colors.

You can also imagine all those leaves to rake.

I write on this topic most autumns.

What to do with all those leaves.

This week's topic is Trash to Treasure.


Those &/*@%-~# leaves.

Isn't it funny?

In the dead of winter we gaze at a lifeless landscape, our trees and shrubs stand bare.

In early spring, we can't wait for the tree buds to crack open and give our surrounding a bit of life.

In summer we appreciate the green canopies and seek out the cool shade that leaves provide.

For a few short weeks of autumn, we OOH and AAH over the colors that can leave us breathless.

Then, it is something like this.

"The last thing I want to do is go out and rake piles of leaves".

"What a drag, where is a neighbor boy when I need him"?

Fall leaves are rich in minerals and organic matter, and if you throw them away every year you will gradually make your soil less fertile.

Roughly 75% of the nutrients a tree takes in every year are stored in the leaves and 'Nature' intended for earth to recycle naturally.

Several micro nutrients from deep down in the earth are absorbed through the roots, into the leaves and gradually onto the surface to feed all over again.

When you fertilize your landscape, a portion of that fertilizer is used to make leaves, which are then shed in fall.

Much of the organic matter you use, ends up in tree leaves and the cycle continues (if you use your leaves).

I've been known to drive around my neighborhood in autumn and snag bags of leaves.

I solicit friends and neighbors


Because there are so many ways to use them in the garden, and they are so beneficial.

I add dry leaves to compost, use them as bedding, mulch with them, make leaf mold, and more.

Here are a few ways to recycle this valuable resource on your yard and in your garden:

A mulching mower works well, as will a standard type mower with the discharge chute closed.

Set the front wheels a notch or two higher to allow leaf litter to enter the mower housing.

Now, mulch mow the leaves (and grass for that matter) when the yard is dry because wet materials will quickly clog the mower.

These hopped leaves fall back into the grass and represent a natural, organic source of nutrients for your landscape.

If you bag them for curbside pickup and let your fees pay to have them picked up and hauled away, you're just "renting" fertilizer, not buying it!

In natural settings like forests and meadows, we see the leaf cycle operating as it was designed to do from the beginning.

Many communities collect and sell the fallen leaves and yard littler, then turn around and sell it to companies, or as mulch to to its citizens.

In nature, leaves drop and collect as mulch, protecting soil from crusting, erosion, temperature extremes, drying out, and compaction.

In time they decompose, slowly releasing nutrients to growing plants.


(My Beds covered with a shredded leaf mulch.)

Take a look at any forest floor and it is clear that 'Mother Nature' intended leaves to be mulch.

The only problem with using leaves as a mulch in the garden is they tend to form a dense, soggy mat when they get wet, which can smother any plants underneath.

The easiest way to get around this problem is to shred the leaves before you layer them over the soil.

You can collect the leaves off your lawn and shred them at the same time by mowing over the leaves with a mower that has a bag attached.

The mower sucks the leaves up off the lawn and mixes them with grass clippings.

This mix of grass (nitrogen) and leaves (carbon) stays nice and fluffy and decomposes more quickly than straight leaves.

A mulching mower works well, as will a standard type mower with the discharge chute closed.

Set the front wheels a notch or two higher to allow leaf litter to enter the mower housing.

Layer a 3 inch of the mixture over the soil in ornamental beds.


A compost pile breaks down most efficiently when it is built with 1:3 ratio of green, nitrogen-rich ingredients (like grass clippings) to brown carbon-rich ingredients.

Leaves are full of carbon and make an excellent "browns" compost addition.

I like to stock pile bags of leaves in the fall.

I use them as insulation and protection on many plants.

I also have them on hand in the spring when I can place them in beds for multiple reasons.

Leaves do not go to waste around here.

Leaf Mold:

Leaf mold is just leaves that have broken down into a dark, crumbly compost-like material.

(One year old bag of leaves.)

It couldn't be easier to make.

Just pile or bag some shredded leaves up and let them sit there until they decompose, which usually takes about 8 to 12 months.

I place some of these bags of leaves on top of tender perennials as insulation.

You will be amazed at what you can grow as perennials with a thick layer (bag) of insulation.

When mixed into the soil, leaf mold adds nutrients and keeps the soil light while also helping it retain moisture.

Once you discover leaf mold, you will wonder why you haven't done this before.

Create Beneficial Insect Habitats:

Leaves can act as a refuge for beneficial insects, birds and other wildlife during the winter.

Rake leaves underneath hedges or place piles of them in an out of the way corner of your yard.

You can always use shredded leaves between rows of strawberries and a weed barrier for your asparagus patch, which in turn benefits you, your plants and wildlife.

In the circle of life, nothing goes to waste and fallen leaves are critical.

The little effort now, produces big rewards later on.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week (listen up men).

God Bless

“I wasn't mean;

I wasn't evil.

I was nice.

And let me tell you, a hesitant man is the last thing in the world a woman needs.

She needs a lover and a warrior, not a Really Nice Guy.”

John Eldredge, Best selling author of Wild At Heart


That hurt.

A really good read (a must for men)

Need Proof?

"The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name."

Exodus 15:3

"Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame."

Song of Solomon 8:6

"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

1 John 4:8

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb.

A Blessed week to you .

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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