Last week I noticed that the thick layer of fallen leaves was gone from the lawns around my building. The Hausmeister had taken advantage of a warm sunny day to scoop them up with his riding mower and dump the chopped-up leaves into a big pile beside one of the buildings. I found the pile, and the little gardening fanatic in me drooled. Just drooled.
Black gold, that’s what it was. The thing I’d been fantasizing about all summer while the plants in the beds outside my doors drooped and struggled, while the Hausmeister grumbled about having to water those same beds during hot spells until he finally asked me to do it. That poor, stoney, parched, starving, packed-down soil. It needed a good thick mulch and some compost, much more than I could ever hope to drag home in a bicycle cart. I had tried to start a discreet compost pile under some bushes, but was caught and asked to put compost in its proper place: In the brown bins that are emptied and taken away as waste each week. Truly, what a waste.
The irony is that this pile of leaves was right beside two very contentious flower beds, the object of a big condo vs. condo garden battle earlier last year. I learned about it in the summer when I innocently remarked on them to my landlord and offered to give them some love. He looked horrified, and sternly advised me not to go near them. Apparently during the initial condo board discussions to install the beds, one building wanted to spend the money to improve the soil before installing the roses, and one absolutely didn’t. The folks who wanted to save money won. Judging by my landlord’s determination to see the rose bed fail, I guessed that he was a little bitter about being on the losing side.
And now, ironically, the same budget-conscious condo board was paying someone to take that valuable pile away. That lovely chopped-up pile of of life-giving mulch. I managed to sneak over there last weekend and surreptiously (I hope) grab a couple of bags of the stuff, and I went back for more today in broad daylight only to find that most of it was already gone. I hauled what was left back, and spread it over “my” beds. I could feel invisible eyes boring into my back, and imagined scandalized apartment-dwelling neighbours seven stories high observing me go against the ordained order of things by putting fallen leaves back into the garden. I know they think the garden looks nicer when the leaves are scraped up, but I think a garden looks even nicer when it’s green and lush thanks to crumbly, healthy soil. Anyway, I topped it all off with a thin layer of dirt mined from the two bags I had hauled home from hardware store yesterday. It was a thin layer only because there just wasn’t nearly enough of the stuff to completely cover my crime, but I hoped it would be enough to speed along the natural decomposition process in the spring. More importantly, I hoped it would discourage some neighbouring neatnick from raking the leaves back out again.
I can’t wait to see the results next spring. I’ve put bird feeders in the trees over the worst of the bare spots, and am counting on the nitrogen from copious droppings to speed things along. Truly, why not take advantage of the help nature offers — falling leaves, diligent Hausmeisters on mulching mowers, and pooping birds — to help your garden grow?