Let Playing Dogs Roll….

By Gardennia nutii
I’ve learned to embrace unintended consequences. For example, the lovely flower show that resulted when Prunella vulgaris took over my lawn after I neglected weeding chores. Another wonderful unintended consequence occurred the first weekend in December when heavy winds blew the last of the delicate leaves from my laceleaf Japanese and vine maples off walking surfaces and into my flower beds. They now offer a protective covering during the winter and as wonderful mulch as the seasons progress.

Shredded sweet gum leaves used
as mulch under a rhododendron.

I’ve always been a big proponent of letting leaves provide natural mulch, especially because I have so many trees with delicate leaves that compost quickly and don’t smother my bedding plants. However, I do have one tree with very large, heavy leaves that drop late in the winter: my beloved sweet gum. What to do with all those thick, heavy, wet leaves that smother plants if left in place? In the past, they usually ended up on the compost pile, taking years to break down.

Thanks to an unusually dry weekend, I was able to try an experiment: using the lawnmower to shred the dry leaves then directly using them as mulch. So after collecting as many sweet gum leaves as we could, my husband fired up our very un-environmentally friendly mower to chop up those leaves. It took several passes since these leaves are so heavy and thick, but we got the work done in no time thanks to that mower.

Spreading the shredded leaves was made even easier due to three cheerful canine helpers: Archer (our dog) and Max and Jack (our neighbor’s dogs). They enthusiastically spread the piles of chopped leaves while rolling and playing in the yard.

Thanks to a little wind, dry weather, and active dogs, I now have my planting beds tucked in for the winter. Sigh…another task done.

Do you have a great way to recycle your leaves? Let us know!