High winds in winter can leave your garden a tangled mess of twigs, branches and dead leaf matter. Before you sweep them all straight into the green bin, consider what they could do for you.
They appear from nowhere, they’re a pain to collect. Investing in a special grabber to spare your knees and back feels like a bit of a defeat as you shuffle around the lawn with your bin liner or bucket. It’s cold, damp and gusty, and you know you’ll be back the same time tomorrow, feebly trying to keep up with the nightly twig & leave drop.
But the mop up operation doesn’t have to be a thankless chore- give yourself something back instead by making it the start of rewarding process.
Brown and unpleasant, smelly and slimy- wet decomposing leaf matter turns the finest lawns into a fetid marsh, and worse they can cause damage to your turf, trapping freezing moisture against the fragile tips of grass blades. Leaves blow in whatever you do, and while resting the in the shade of a healthy tree might sound nice in summer, in winter the grass beneath its branches is likely to suffer. Bad for drainage, bad for temperature, bad for mowing (if you’re feeling really brave) and generally ugly and messy, the problem of leaf matter is expounded by the problems raking your lawn will cause in winter- meaning you need to try to gather these by hand- while even setting foot on your lawn is a risk in these delicate winter weeks.
However, before grumpily dispatching your daily dead leaf harvest to the recycling bin, it might pay to consider a new home for it. Each autumn the wind leaves you piles and piles of compost just waiting to be made. If you have the space, leaves can be an effective compost and, eventually highly beneficial to plants of all kinds- even to the lawn you’re picking them up from- if your lawn is well drained the compost well broken down.
Twigs from trees can be composted if snapped into smaller pieces. Indeed, these are ideal for your compost bin, as they create pockets of air that create even & efficient composting. Alternatively, if you’re lucky enough to own a solid fuel stove or fireplace, or are a fan of bonfires, twigs such as these made great kindling or even tinder if well dried. Tie them into bundles and stand them next to the fire, and after a few days you will have perfect dried solid fuel. Some trees work better than others- pine and oily wood, while scarcer among fallen branches due to their flexibility and hardiness, burns like rocket fuel when dried (that might be a slight exaggeration) so light it with care.
Larger pieces of wood may occasionally crop up in your garden, especially after a particularly blustery night. If they do, don’t despair, you still don’t need to let it go to waste. Wood chips compost just as well as twigs, and obviously make excellent, environmentally friendly fuel for stoves and bonfires. If you don’t have access to a chipper, and don’t plan to burn your wood, consider asking around in case any of your friends enjoy a log fire- after all, some bin collections won’t accept larger pieces of wood anyway. If all else fails, piles of large pieces of wood can make a great habitat for local wildlife, if you have the space.
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