Turning yard trash into “black gold”

Yesterday I woke to the unfamiliar sound of raindrops beating on the roof outside my window. It wasn’t much of a storm, but I was glad to get a couple of feet of water in my rain barrels, and I’d been worrying about having to water the trees and lawn. 

Just the day before I put in those onions my husband bought me at Walmart. The old wood box beds were about to fall apart, we’ve had those for many years. My husband went to the trouble to put metal “cloth” on the bottoms to keep out the gophers, so we’ve toted those beds every time we’ve moved from one house to the other. Just set them on the ground in the sun and fill them up with dirt. The other day he gave them a good mending with some metal strip around the corners – good to go another few years.

These redwood boxes are so old they are falling apart. My husband mended them with some metal strip.

My husband built  these redwood boxes for our first home, made  them “gopher proof” with metal fabric. We’ve toted them from house to house for many years, using them mostly for onions and garlic.

This metal strip is the handiest stuff. Someday I realize the wood will be so rotten, we won't be able to patch it, but in this way we've got over 20 years out of this bed.

This metal strip is the handiest stuff. Someday, I realize, the wood will be so rotten, we won’t be able to patch it, but in this way we’ve got over 20 years out of this bed.

After I cleaned and turned over the dirt, I laid in the little red onion starts, then covered the bed with a couple of inches of mulch. I get my mulch from our trees, we have a lot of young oaks, a couple of nice sycamores, and plenty of scrubby brush around the edges of the yard. My son started building himself a leaf pile  several years ago, he intended to make a bike jump out of it.  When he came home for Christmas break recently, I asked him to turn it over – it was covered with foot-high weeds. Weeds know good dirt – the leaves had turned into a giant mound of “black gold.” 

This pile is made almost entirely of oak leaves, with some old stumps and weeds.

This pile is made almost entirely of oak leaves, with some old stumps and weeds.

Nature is slowly turning this mound into dirt. My son speeded the process along by turning the whole thing over with a shovel one morning.

Nature is slowly transforming this mound into dirt. My son sped the process along by turning the whole thing over with a shovel one morning.

My husband made me a dirt sifter with a piece of plywood and some wire screen, and I put that across the top of my wheel barrow – dirt farmer! 

This simple contraption works great - just set it on a wood box or a wheelbarrow and pout in your compost. The screen catches all the rocks and sticks and undigested stuff and lets the nice fluffy "black magic" fall through.

This simple contraption works great – just set it on a wood box or a wheelbarrow and put in your compost. The screen catches all the rocks and sticks and undigested stuff and lets the nice fluffy “black magic” fall through.

Onions all planted, mulched and watered. I use that piece of fencing over the top to keep the squirrels from planting nuts in there.

Onions all planted, mulched and watered. I use that piece of fencing over the top to keep the squirrels from planting nuts in there.

The finished product - soaks up water like a sponge.

The finished product – soaks up water like a sponge.

Trees are interesting – they make their own food. Not only do leaves serve as tiny food factories when they are alive, on the tree, but when they die they decompose at the foot of the tree and leach their leafy goodness back into the soil, for the tree to turn into food.   Of course, the trees don’t need all those leaves, and over build up causes rot and disease, so we can round up a lot of those leaves to make “food” for other plants in the form of mulch.

For years I have  removed leaves from areas such as lawns and pathways, where they kill the grass and make a mess, to areas where I want to discourage weeds. Wherever I have a lot of shady trees gathered together and lawn won’t grow, I dump leaves from all around the property, about a foot deep. I keep them away from the base of the trees so it doesn’t damage the bark. In this way I have turned several weedy areas, where I used to spend hours every Spring yanking foxtails and  other “fuel” weeds, into pretty little shade zones. I don’t have to mow in those areas or pull weeds anymore, and the trees are happy and lush.

I used to look at this place as some kind of work farm – in Fall the leaves and in Spring the weeds. Over the years I’ve learned how to turn them on each other, and also to my advantage, giving me more time and energy for other stuff. 

 

 

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One thought on “Turning yard trash into “black gold”

  1. Pingback: Turning yard trash into “black gold” | worldofjuanita | World Organic News

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