The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Jackson Bird Spa Expansion - Stolen Leaves Are Sweeter



The Jackson Bird Spa is party central in our neighborhood -

nine feedings stations and seven places to drink or bath,
twigs, sticks, string, and lint for their nests.



When I came home from Walmart today, Mrs. Ichabod asked about the two huge garbage pails I had in the car. "They aren't garbage pails. They are rain barrels with birdbaths on top."

In the trunk I had some mulch for the Jackson Bird Spa expansion. I left newspapers out in the rain, which finally stopped. They are far easier to spread when soaking wet, and breezes do not blow them away. I expanded the area to be covered and mulched on top.

I put the garbage-can-lid birdbaths upside-down in the mulch and filled all the baths. These Rubber Maid lids were especially shallow and very large, which birds appreciate. They are not going to step into deep water, and I want toads to have a pleasant area with plenty of water.

I never looked for toads before, but I had one under the faucet last summer. I also saw baby toads here and there, without thinking much about them being such a blessing - eating slugs and insects.



Rain Barrels
I thought of capturing rain from altering the down spouts, but I had second thoughts after wrestling with one of the spouts today. Reworking the spout means additional work, which is a violation of the Maynard G. Krebs Prime Directive - Do not create extra jobs in the garden.

Instead I will leave the downspouts alone and capture rain from the roof runoff in the backyard (no downspouts or gutters there).

There are two ways to have great water for special treatment of plants. One is to fill a barrel and let it evaporate the chlorine out of it for at least 24 hours. The other is to collect the rainwater and use it before it generates a population of mosquitoes.

My mother always stored water before using it in the classroom. All the teachers wanted to know why her flowers were so bountiful and theirs were so poor. She just smiled. Moline water was so bleachy we did not need whiteners for our teeth.


The Crown Imperials are beginning to show.
Giant aliums are next.

Stolen Leaves
I watered the straw bale garden, which is going to produce gushy soil around it. The benefit of straw bales is that watering them will motivate the roots to go down deep. The disadvantage is the need to water often and stay out of the mud.

We began with a good base - heavy ragweed growth, pumpkin vines, and tomato vines mulched into the soil, which had plenty of wood mulch. Newspapers were on top of this, and straw bales on the newspapers.

Lacking was an area to dress up the sloppy look of leaning bales and newspapers under them like old nappies.

I know our veteran on the corner wanted his leaves gone, and his brother was taking several more months to finish the job. Sassy and I went down with the wheel-barrel and nicked them in  two trips. If no one saw the trips, the brothers will wonder how the leaves disappeared after abiding so long on the corner of the lot, killing the grass.

Autumn leaves, piled up, rained and snowed and sleeted on, are dark, wet, and somewhat slimy. They are pure food for the soil. Leaves harbor beneficial insects, soil creatures, and earthworms. Microbes and larger soil creatures (yea, even slugs) will shred, digest, and fix all that food in the root zone.

Yes, I smile at at Lowe's customers carting bags of inorganic fertilizer out to their cars. They probably bag their leaves and have the city pick them up. Endless withdrawals from the soil cannot be made up with inorganic salts.

So I piled my treasure along the base of the straw bales. Overflow of water will facilitate additional decomposition. The leaves will settle down in a few days, so I will add a bag or two of wood mulch,  on top - as I did at the base of the crepe myrtle bush.

I mulched the crepe myrtle all last year, and the mulch kept going down. What does this mean, class?
Answer - the soil creatures below consumed the trees leaves, bush leaves, mower grass clumps, and wood mulch, feeding the roots of the bush and giving us the most glorious crepe myrtle in the area.

We pruned the top of the crepe myrtle and got a second bloom when all others stopped. Why? They did not prune for a second bloom. The seed pods formed and lasted all winter and fed the birds. We mulched all the pruned branches by cutting them up into twigs. They decomposed into the soil.



Sunlight Plus + Organic Additions = Soil Health
The renewal of the soil comes from a combination of solar power and organic additions.

Solar power makes the plants grow, create complex compounds above and below the surface, and build the soil by turning energy into useful nutrition.

Organic additions build the soil by adding a wide variety of food for soil creatures to turn into food for plant roots. Just as the birds show up for suet, peanuts, corn, and sunflower seeds, the soil creatures arrive to consume manure, plant leftover, mulch, leaves, and grass clippings.
Great blooms, but this crepe myrtle could use a lot of pruning.

The Lyle Lovett pruning of the crepe myrtle bush
puts all the flowers on top, the branches below bare.
Little Ichabod laughed.