The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Winter Leaves:
Feed the Plants of Spring

 Autumn Leaves - by Norma Boeckler.

Our helper has recovered so much from his accident, a car running him down when he was on his bike, that he came over to do some work. I did not want to get him into serious physical work, but I had a plan.

"Your neighbor has a bunch of bags, probably leaf bags. Let's get them and spread them in the bird-feeding area."

I put on my camouflage: red winter jacket, Tilley hat. We saddled up, drove a half-block and began loading the bags. 100% leaves.

The bird-and-squirrel-feeding area was covered with cardboard months ago. Cardboard by itself is fairly good at stopping the growth of weeds and grass. A thick layer of leaves is ideal for blocking the sun even more, harboring insects for the birds to enjoy, and providing organic material for the soil.

 Feed Crepe Mytle bushes in the fall and winter,
enjoy the blooms all summer long.
The winter seeds also feed the birds.


The way to provide a new gardening space where the lawn is growing is to cover the area with cardboard in the fall, adding leaves or pine needles on top.

Large cardboard boxes are so easy to find that I begin with them, months ahead. Many large boxes come to neighbors and even to our home (medical supplies, for example). Leaves and needles are seasonal. Now I have large amounts of tree contributions to add to the cardboard.

The difficulty with cardboard first is the tendency of the wind to pick up large sheets and move them around. They may be dampened by rain, but the wind and sun dries the pieces out again. I have put so many logs on the butterfly garden cardboard - and yet they still move around. Leaves take away the aerodynamics of the cardboard and help in creating the soggy layer.

Overall I am working on building the fungi in the soil, feeding the soil creatures, and converting all the grass and weeds into compost. It is possible to plant in the lawn and build the layers of mulch around the new plants, but the composting of the lawn will use up a certain amount of energy and delay the arrival of the hordes of soil creatures to feed the roots.

Composting creates heat and the soil creatures work according to a divinely wrought plan. Earthworms run from heat, so forget them at first. The nitrogen loving bacteria create the heat, so that is way rabbit and chicken manure are considered hot additions to compost. Grass is hot, too.

However, the beauty of this plan is the wonderful combination, in place, of all the best ingredients of compost:

  1. Nitrogen in the grass 
  2. Bacteria and fungus already present
  3. Dead and dying organic matter, from the soil creatures to the roots of plants denied sunlight
  4. Moisture trapped beneath 

Bacteria loves the easy work of decomposition, and fungus excels at destroying woody products and delivering their components to plant roots.

In the spring, everyone wants the right seeds and plants, but the first goal should be soil in the best condition for planting.

 Veterans' Honor rose is a show-stopper:
fragrant, large in size, long in the vase.


Our neighbor began her rose garden with an extra Veterans Honor rose. Her daughter is even more exciting about the new plant. I told them not to expect much initially, since it had to re-establish itself.

The rose leafed out - a very good sign - and grew increasingly strong. I was pleased, since it was previously being choked by Blackberries.

I brought over a bag of shredded wood mulch and some pieces of cardboard. The cardboard collar keeps grassy weeds from springing up to choke the plant. The wood mulch holds down the cardboard and feeds the soil creatures, insulating the plant against cold too.

The recent snow means the mulch and cardboard around the rose got plenty soggy and much more prone to help the soil creatures below. They are busy feeding the root hairs of the rose, which is God's design for all plants. Bacteria are food for protozoa, and protozoa by eating bacteria make room for more. Fungi crave carbon and obtain it from the roots, and the rose craves various forms of nutrition and water.

Veterans' Honor will have the advantage of well established roots in the spring, when a little pruning will promote early growth above and below ground.

Meanwhile, I am doting on the Crepe Mytle again, piling leaves, dead wood, and pine needles around its base. No matter what I do to add leaves, they go down, decomposing and feeding the soil. Spring pruning will ensure a glorious summer of enormous blooms.

Flowers will bloom in spite of our blunders, but they will flourish when we follow the principles of Creation, avoid toxins, and let His creatures do the work they were designed to accomplish.


 A cardboard collar around plants will discourage grassy weeds
and encourage soil creatures.





 No Leaf Left Behind

I took Mrs. Ichabod to Fayetteville for some shopping. I went to the bookstore. The beads and Dixon Street books are about two blocks apart. I tried a shortcut and encountered a dream, a mirage. no it was real.

Someone set out a large group of leaf bags on the curb, so many that they filled the Town Car (Icha-boat).

"Did you buy any books?" my wife asked.

"No, better." She looked in the car. "Where did you find all those leaves?"

Our helper came over to the house later for another round of spreading leaves over cardboard, this time around the dead tree that supports the Honeysuckle vines.