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Little Iris bravely peeking out in the Garland Community Garden--just before a cold snap.

I almost don't want to brag on leaves in the fear that more people will start waking up and keeping their leaves for themselves instead of bringing them down to the garden but I just can't help myself.  Leaves are so wonderful that I want everyone to hear about them.  On Sunday I dumped three bags of leaves around the children's garden where I have planted wildflower seeds.  The mulch of leaves will protect the little seedlings that are already sprouting up.  It's a lot easier and much less expensive method to protect tender plants with leaves.  When the weather warms up, the leaves can be brushed off the top of the plants, but still left as mulch to protect the soil and eventually, through the process of decomposition, to enrich the soil for new plants that will follow.

PATHWAY COMPOSTING AT THE GARLAND COMMUNITY GARDEN

As for bringing leaves down to the Garland Community Garden--you can consider it wide open season. Bring them on. We plan to line the walkways between all our beds with them.  Over time, the soil at 4022 Naaman School Road will evolve into the richest soil in our community. It's the preferred method of nature.  If you want to see how it will look, you can visit the garden and look at the layer of leaves on part of the pathway at the back of the Winding Garden area.  It looks like the yellow brick road--very pretty.  As time moves on, the leaves will darken and our pathways will look much like a forest floor. We won't have weeds encroaching on the garden this year.  When a weed crops up, or as the leaves decompose, we'll just put a little pile of leaves over it and stomp it down.   

At last we have a final solution for Garland residents who care enough to not send their bags of leave to the landfill--which is where the majority of them end up.  The Garland Community Garden can now handle all the leaves you send our way and ensure they do not go to the dump.  

The leaves decompose over time.  As with wood mulch, the path is not muddy after a rain.  It is much like a natural forest floor.  Then, after a year or so, gardeners at the Garland Community Garden can dig up parts of the pathway and use it for compost for the garden beds (filling in the hole afterward with more leaves). This seems to be the trend in organic gardening—moving away from composting in bins and instead composting right near where you will be using the compost.  In fact, in many cases we are bringing the compost process right to the bed.  This saves the back-breaking work of turning and then hauling the compost to the beds.  We are moving toward the method of the no work style of Ruth Stout—the mulch queen.

The chicken wire baskets that you can see in many of our beds demonstrates a "compost right in the bed method". These baskets are designed to throw the veggie scraps right into the basket and then place some wet crumpled newspaper or leaves on top to discourage flies and mask any odors that might otherwise attract pests.  This method also helps to conserve water as the roots of the plants go for the baskets where they draw nutrients and moisture from the decaying veggies.

Trench composting is another permaculture method of composting right in the bed.  For this type of composting dig a trench about 8 to 12 inches deep down the middle of the bed, fill it with a few layers veggies and leaves.  Cover it, and voila—another compost bin directly in your bed.  It is hoped that we can work out a program to obtain scraps from a local grocer to keep us supplied as green vegetable matter speed up the decomposition process.  Contrary to common belief, there is no city ordinance against grocers giving away their spoiled vegetable matter to private citizens in Garland.

SPEAKING OF COMPOST BINS

There is still a place for compost bins in the garden--not only the home garden, but the Garland Community Garden too. Covered bins are fairly essential in my opinion, for hot composting which is absolutely necessary if you want to ensure that any and all weed seeds as well as pathogens from manure are rendered inert.  On Friday, after my URBAN GARDENS FOR KIDS class, I stopped by the Garland Environmental Waste center on Commerce to pick up some great educational material on composting from Glenna Brown (who sadly for us will be retiring the end of this month).  Glenna also gave me two open compost bins--one for each of the URBAN GARDENS FOR KIDS classes that I teach at Beaver Tech.

THREE MORE COMPOST BINS ARE COMING TO GARLAND COMMUNITY GARDEN

Thanks to Glenna, city employees of the Garland Environmental Waste Department this week will deliver three retired green garbage bins with the lids to the garden. We may even beautify these bins with paint before spring officially arrives.

Go down to the Garden and visit. Even at the end of winter, it is looking good.

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