Happy non-denominational-gift-exchange season! It’s that time of year. Unfettered commercialism is in the air, people everywhere are wrestling with wrapping paper, and Mexico and New Orleans got snow while it’s still 50 degrees in Iowa.
Now I am a big fan of having a solid four season. I don’t like one better than another (except fall. Fall is greatness.), all I ask is that no season stick around longer than necessary. I should also mention that I love snow!! I love watching snow, and playing in snow, and driving in snow, and shovelling snow… oh wait. No. That’s not right. But I do love snow!
I have also discovered this year that there is a reason I love snow: once it snows, the yard work has to stop and no one can blame you for not having a good excuse. Needless to say, the fact that summer lasted into FRIGGIN’ DECEMBER has made me a bitter cranky mess. (No seriously, we had days of 60-70 degrees in mid-October.) Yesterday, Adam and I raked our yard for the 4th time and I have officially declared us done.
It’s no secret I like sedentary activities. I mean, most of my favorite hobbies can be done on the couch, in my PJs, with the TV on. But unfortunately being an adult means trading your hard earned money for things that come with obligatory responsibility, like home ownership. Oh you thought being an adult meant more freedom? hahahahahahaHAHAHAHAHAHA.
Admittedly, Adam and I both feel very lucky to have the house we have. It’s solid and warm and was perfectly in our price range. It also came with a 1/3 acre of backyard in the middle of town which is kind of crazy, even by Iowa standards, so yes – we are grateful. However, that yard also needs to be raked every fall and we apparently live downwind from every tree in a three county radius. Aside from all the other trees, we actually have 2 major leaf-dropping trees in our backyard. The first one, the silver maple, is gorgeous.
And while I hate that this guy drops all his leaves out once, at least he drops them early. The other tree is an oak and approximately 80 feet tall (not an exaggeration).
The oak tree consistently will wait until the city has stopped all curbside leaf pick-up and then will drop all of it’s leaves the very next day. As you can see from the photo above, it retains its leaves a long time. (This photo was taken during raking round 2).
The first year we owned the house we literally did the entire backyard with a single plastic rake and hauled everything out to the front yard, one tarp-full at a time. Using this method, it sort of goes without saying that most of the leaves ended up becoming next spring’s lawn mulch. Luckily, about this time last year, a mysterious and magical leaf blower showed up on our doorstep! (I believe Adam’s exact words were, “you ordered so much from Amazon that you don’t even know what you bought???) Turns out, my brother had visited during leaf insanity season and was so appalled by the state of our backyard that he took pity on us and bought us a leaf blower to use for this year. Apparently looking super pitiful is the trick to getting everything you need in life.
As much as I like to think of myself as environmentally-friendly, I really wasn’t about to give up my gas-guzzling leaf blower for the privilege of hand-raking everything, so whatever. Call me a hypocrite, but the job is done and my neighbors can stop giving me that judge-y side-eye. (Yeah, I see you Janet! You’re not fooling anyone with your single evergreen sapling!)
It still doesn’t solve the problem of hauling the leaves away though. I will say that Iowa City is kind enough to offer curbside leaf pick-up in the fall (which then becomes free compost you can pick-up in the spring!). Unfortunately, you still have to get the leaves to the curb which is hard and makes me sweat and I really don’t want to do it. So this year, I decided to use the leaves to mulch my garden instead! After all, laziness is the root of all genius innovation. (That’s a saying, right? I’ve decided it’s going to be a thing people say.) During my googling, I found this movement called “Back to Eden” gardening, which is really just Pinterest rediscovering how to garden the way our parents and grandparents knew innately. What it boils down to is keep the soil covered in mulch and using what’s around you to create a healthy garden, rather than spending lots of money at Lowes on painted wood chips. (This movement is also known as “no-weeding” gardening which was something of a “you had me at hello” moment for me.) So that’s what I did with my leaves.
When we first moved into the house, I was really excited to have a vegetable garden. So excited, in fact, that I didn’t bother waiting a year to know where the best summer sun would be in the backyard. Turns out, our backyard is really shady (and I have no idea which direction east is) so the original spot I picked for a garden wasn’t particularly successful. This year, I got about 3 cherry tomatoes and 18,000 cucumbers that I let all go to seed because I got lazy and frustrated and decided I didn’t want to put in the energy to pickle any of them. (I’ll totally be better next year…I promise.) So this fall, we (read: I) decided to move the garden to a (hopefully) sunnier part of the yard.
A Step-By-Step Guide To Prepping A Vegetable Garden For Winter
- Pick your spot. Make it bigger than you intended to and then rely on Adam to help you get everything done before it snows because small gardens are for weenies!
- Lay down cardboard and/or newspaper to keep the grass and other weeds at bay for next spring.
3. Cover the paper/cardboard with compostable product – dirt, leaf mold, compost, whatever. I was going to write in tips for finding cheap/free compost but at this point I would just recommend moving to Iowa City. They have free compost at the landfill if you can find a truck to haul it (made from all the leaves they picked up at your curb!. We did not have a truck, but we had an SUV and buckets so we did it that way – 7 bucket loads at a time from the recycling center.
4. Once you’ve covered the whole area with a few inches of compost/dirt, go back and cover everything else with shredded leaves. We used a bagged lawn mower to shred all the leaves which was WAY better than hauling them all to the curb.
So yeah. Gardening. It’s totally a hobby for non-lazy, competent people. Which I am not.