Actually, I also find it hard to love my neighbour, although I try
not to let him know it. I had a number of good years driving the
streets around my house at the time of leaf fall, and again when
the lawn cutting got under way in earnest, happily hauling home
the green and brown gold that people bagged up nicely and put for
the trash people to haul away.
"O.k. if I take your
leaves?" "Sure go ahead." . . . A predictable conversation
for a number of years. Until one fateful day - "What do you
do with them, anyway?"
Well, I explained mulching.
And no, it wasn't like composting. There was no need to mess with
heaps that had to be turned, no risk of odor, no chance of harboring
rats or snakes. I launched into it with missionary zeal "Our
soils really need organic matter in them. It does wonders, makes
heavy soils drain, and sandy soils hold water. The mulch on the
surface has no danger of causing nitrogen starvation as it breaks
down. (Where had my neighbour even heard of nitrogen? What misinformed
garden writer had he read?) The surface mulch stops weed seeds in
the soil from germinating into healthy plants. And its own surface
gets too dry for weed seeds that blow onto it to germinate well.
And if they do, the seedlings pull up with no effort."
On and on - after all,
I have believed in surface mulching as a way of growing for years
- tested it in England, in Montreal, in St. Louis, in Tampa and
Lakeland and Coconut Grove and Fort Lauderdale, in the Dominican
Republic and Puerto Rico. And no one had ever believed me when I
explained it, even when standing in my rather lush gardens.
So why did it stick this
time? It didn't seem to make an immediate impression, but a few
weeks later I found that I wasn't having to make quite as many trips
the night before the trash men came. Then I saw some suspicious
piles around trees in the swale in front of his house. Then he got
the tree trimmers to dump a load of chips in his driveway, and borrowed
my pitchfork and wheelbarrow to spread it!
And from then on, things
went from bad to worse. He is evidently much more trusted than the
foreigner in their midst that I am, and his example seems to have
been a catalyst for the whole area. My supplies are getting very
sparse. I may be reduced to buying the composted trash that is available
now ( a great product it is, by the way).
I need to be philosophical
about it. I believe in the idea of husbanding the plot that we occupy,
and the soil in our neighbourhood should soon become the earthworm
paradise of Broward County. Perhaps I can persuade him to use all
his kitchen scraps, as we do (yes, everything, vegetable, animal
and the daily accumulation of junk mail.) I love to debunk another
of the stories that garden writers copy from one another without
testing what they write. I never get smells from the bones or meat
scraps, and the garden is not invaded by bears every night.
Garden writers, and my
opinion of most of them (can you guess?) - that is another story.
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