When I arrived home last Saturday, after a few weeks away, my deck was covered in fall leaves. Far from being annoyed by the work ahead of me, I was eager to put into action the plan I had concocted. After all, these leaves are the gardener’s brown gold. As they decompose, they become an absolutely free source of nutrients for our plants.
Last year, the leaves ended up in the yard waste bags, made of thick brown paper. I sadly waved goodbye when the municipality left with them to take them to their final destination. How frustrating not to be able to reuse them in my pots and planters! On top of that, I had to buy compost to replace the nutrients that could have come from those leaves. SCANDAL!
Removing Fall Leaves… From Your Deck
After reading the article Getting Those Fall Leaves Off Your Lawn a while back, I was already thinking about buying a leaf shredder. Or a vacuum shredder (a thing of dreams!) I could already see myself lying in a pile of freshly shredded leaves, breathing in the sweet and musky aroma of decaying leaves.
In this text, we discover how to pick up the leaves that litter our yards in the fall to use them as mulch, using mowers, shredders, trimmers, even snow blowers. I don’t have any of those tools. You have to understand that I don’t live in the suburbs, but on the second floor of a building on the Plateau-Mont-Royal (an urban neighborhood in Montreal, Canada). Although my 14 ft x 20 ft deck is huge for the area, buying a tool dedicated solely to leaf shredding was unthinkable (not true, I actually thought about it, let’s just say ‘exaggerated’). Even if I had enough leaves to make it worthwhile, where would I have stored my shredder? I would have had to get rid of my ice fishing kit to have enough room in my outdoor storage space (which really is unthinkable).
Fortunately, I had a few ideas in mind that I will try out for your enjoyment. But first, let’s pick up some leaves! I could do it with a broom or a leaf sweeper. However, since I’m laidback, I preferred to use my shop vac. As a bonus, it gets the leaves out of every little nook and cranny. And it hardly ever gets clogged!
- Shredded leaves have smaller air spaces and therefore take up less space than whole leaves.
- Chopped leaves make a better mulch because they don’t flatten out to create an impermeable layer that doesn’t “breathe” well and doesn’t let water through.
- Shredded leaves have more edges, and the edges give beneficial microbes more room to work.
- Chopped leaves don’t fly away as easily. After an initial watering, they tend to stay where you put them.
- Shredded leaves compost more quickly and fewer minerals are lost.
- There is greater air circulation and therefore less risk of slow anaerobic organisms setting up. Aerobic organisms are preferable for home composting.
Method 2: The Blender
Okay, that sounds nuts! But I had done some research on the web (where you only find good ideas!) and it seemed to work. So I pulled out the blender and whispered in his ear what might have been my last words. I filled it with a few handfuls of dead leaves and off we went!
First impression: it works quite well. Sometimes you have to tamp down the leaves a bit so that the ones on top get shredded. And the result is almost perfect! The leaves end up in tiny little pieces. Only the leaf stalks (petioles) weren’t as well shredded. Second impression: it’s so long!
Method 2: The Mortar Mixer
In my research, I found a few people who make sharp-ended rods for themselves that can be attached to a drill. A little too much work for me, but I found a mortar mixer that could do the same job without me having to learn welding. I attached it to my drill and inserted it into a bucket full of leaves.
The bucket almost immediately fell to the ground. I tried to hold it between my legs. It was hardly any better. And I managed to bang my ankle with the mixer: #*$?%$#!
So I put the leaves in a garbage can. Maybe its weight would keep it down? That didn’t work any better! The worst part was that the leaves were barely shredded! TOTAL FAILURE!
The Blender is the Undisputed Champion!
So I took my garbage can full of leaves and started shredding. One… little… container… at… a… time… After 10 minutes, I gave up. The result is excellent, but I have to be a model of laziness, right? The last thing I want to do in my garden is work hard. I have a family reputation to uphold, after all!
Finally, I put the leaves directly into my planters and pots, just as they are, and that’s the end of it. There are plenty of micro-organisms that will do the work for me anyway. Yes, it will take a little longer, but, in the meantime, I can relax on my terrace with my girlfriend and enjoy one of the last beautiful days of fall.
So What About the Hole in the Garbage Can?
I had almost forgotten about the hole in the trash can. While packing my tools in my outdoor storage, I spotted the ice auger I use for winter fishing. With its two blades that can cut through thick ice, maybe it could shred tiny, delicate leaves? Makes sense to me!
MONUMENTAL MISTAKE! It wasn’t long before there was a hole in the bottom of my garbage can.
The moral of this story? A rolling ice auger gathers no shredded leaves? Kill two leaves with one blender?
I’d say: Don’t worry about being perfect and keep it simple!
(BTW, I haven’t said my last word. I’m still looking for a way to shred the leaves on my deck).