Friday, May 22, 2015

Collecting things on the side of the road

This treasure found in my neighbor's trash
has lasted quite a number of years.
Looks like it needs its yearly paint job.
I'm one of those crazy women who pick up things by the side of the road and carry them home.

"Hey, that's a perfectly good lamp! (My friend and I were walking and I carried it the whole way back. It merely needed new wiring and is still in service today.)

Wow, look at that wicker chaise lounge. I think I'll paint it red and put it on the patio as a plant stand! (It rotted out in three months.)

"There's my neighbor's rusted out wheelbarrow with wooden handles intact! (I used it as a cute planter under the oak tree in my front yard, until it rusted through a couple of years later.) 

"Why is my neighbor throwing out that great little cast iron table; what's a little rust? (I simply sprayed it black with Rustoleum and it's still serving the purpose today, probably 15 years later.)

"Why is my next-door neighbor disposing of those cute, cute, cute birdhouses?" (She let me have them but made me promise she would never see them again.)

And so on. I guess all this makes me a scavenger.

Well, I've pretty much cured myself of picking up junk because I really don't need any more junk. I'll admit, though, that it still fascinates me to see all the stuff out there on large-trash day. I have learned to avert my eyes.

All this to say that there is one thing I will pick up on the side of the road, and that's big bags of leaves. Awkward but true. I can pretty much find treasure troves of leaves all year round, but primarily in the spring and fall. When I need leaves, I just drive around, park, pop the trunk, look around to make sure nobody's watching me, and stuff three bags in my microwave-sized trunk.

In my first such foray, I netted 21 bags of leaves, which found a new home on my concrete pad thankfully behind the privacy fence. My bounty stayed in place for several weeks before my husband, the Chemist, convinced me to follow through with the job. So I dumped all 21 bags in the walkways and around each plant in my vegetable garden.

Using leaves as mulch is one of the best things I've ever done for my garden. Since starting this leaf mulching about a year ago, I have had hardly any weeds. Yes, you read that right -- hardly any weeds!

I pile the leaves 3 or 4 inches deep, and keep on adding as they compact down. The leaves I walk on in the aisles turn into a really nice compost that I can later till in. The leaves around the plants act as a slow-release fertilizer.

And aside from relief from the bane of weeds, I don't have to water as often because the leaves hold in the water and keep the roots cool (or warm in cool weather). Periodically I do pull the leaves away from the plants, water the bare ground, and replace the leaves. But that's just common sense.

Very often you will find me
loading more leaves in the garden.

So if you want to make life in your garden much, much easier, collect bags of leaves by the side of the road and dump them in the garden. It's infinitely better than pulling all those weeds and doing endless watering. - QC Karen

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