Monday, February 17, 2014

Drying fallen leaves in onion bags!

My friend Bev in Mexico once wrote about what she does about the leaves that fell from her olive tree in her garden.  It really thrilled me.  We were exchanging some gardening issues when this point came up.  It was September 2013 and the rainy season.  I had written about the huge pile of the big leaves of our almond tree that come down twice a year.  Some excerpts from that mail exchange:

Bev wrote:
So you have lots of leaves with no where to go?  You can send them to me.  They make good mulch for the garden.  What i do with leaves is dry them in bags outside in the sun.  The bags are mesh like this... the bags usually carry quantities of fruit are orange plastic mesh.  I like to get the leaves really dry so they are crispy and these bags are perfect for drying because they let the air flow through.  The reason I like to dry the leaves first is to make sure they are not infested with bugs or worms, etc.  When I know all the leaves are nice and crispy, I go around the garden shaking the bag up and down where I want the leaves to be.  I can make pathways through the dirt that way and scatter dried leaves around plants etc.  Wow I wish I had all those yummy leaves! [She refers my almond leaves.]

I wrote back:
This is an impressive idea Bev. I may do it and I need some storage space for these bags if I do it.  
Almond tree leaves are large.  We do have the net-like onion bags which you mention.  I don't have it at home.  They can be easily bought cheap from the sac sellers in a particular street.  

Bev responded:
Dinu, you don't need storage space.  The best place to hang them is outside in the sun.  The bags weigh nothing even full of leaves.  I hang them (or tack them) to the sunny walls where they will get sun and air. You want the leaves nice and crispy, not moldy and wet.  You can hang them on the outside of your house, anywhere that is sunny.  I don't have any hanging now because it is raining, a lot.  We are having rain from hurricane Ingrid and tropical storm Manuel for at least the next two days.  I can take a photo of the bags I use and send it in the next email.  You can use any type of mesh material that will allow air to circulate. 

Bev again came back in the next email:
I have never actually sent anyone a photo of a bag before, but here it is. It is not very large but will hold quite a lot of leaves.  I'm sure there are larger mesh bags to be found.  I have 3 or 4 of these bags but don't have such an abundance of leaves as you do (in this photo you can also see how miserable and wet it is outside :(  I do like to use the dried leaves crushed up, but don't have any.

I had been mulching the beds of hibiscus and other plants with leaves that come down in February.  Some of those would be chewed up by the termites!  Never mind, they aerate the soil.  The Fiddlewood tree and the Aegle marmelos tree also shed at this time, but once a year.  They are smaller leaves.  I burnt some leaves for the hot water boiler, mulched some beds and preserved much this time.  I wanted to follow the Bev method.  Got 4 bags for ten rupees each Saturday last.  Filled two of them and stored in the scooter shed.  Two gunny bags were also bought but it is another option because it has a weaving much tighter.  The small pieces of dry leaves will be fantastic organic matter for the soil. 

So here we go, Dinu's Bevbag!

Beds widened, important changes

I pick up the strings from the last post. 

First thing was to move the birdbath from near the garden gate which I did.  The bird bath made way for the rain barrel and went up beside the Allspice tree as planned.  The rain barrel [foreground] now shields view of the garden to some extent while creating some more space inside the yard.  See picture below. 

It was like this in March 2011.

A simple arch I had got done using construction steel some years ago was not being used.  I brought it in with a hope of growing tomatoes around it. In the picture below, the birdbath on the brick wall is in place. I had thought of a step wall, but this was more suited. Hollow bricks to hold a concrete slab [which was originally our cement water tank lid] on which the stone birdbath is kept.  

During this time, I have removed all the plants except a couple of tomatoes near which came the arch. 

Now that the bed width had shape had been standardized, it was time for laying the mosaic stepping stones in the centre pavement.  I had made the stepping stones myself [click] using little waste tiles [removed from our workplace floor - see another post]. These had been waiting for a proper use after they were removed during the last 3 years, reasons I need not repeat.

I embedded them.  Six in number.  In between the gaps, I put clay tiles.  

See the birdbath.  The bulbuls and other birds will find its new location soon.  The rain barrel is now placed conveniently, out of the way, but the outlet is accessible.  

The bulbuls were seen using the one which they did not use when it was done.  The round birdbath, now kept under the tap - see a part of it in the picture below [on the left edge].

I had already removed the Thunbergia plant and its roots to make way for Senecio confusus seeds about which I mentioned in the last post.  I sowed a small part [on 16.2.2014] to see if they germinate and start well in the summer months.  

I had made the area clear by moving the Evolvulus 'Blue Daze' - a ground cover plant to the other side of the birdbath at the foot of the Allspice tree. 

Picture above - I have already sown the seeds of Senecio after cleaning the soil reasonably of stones and adding a liberal amount of kitchen compost. The soil where the Thunbergia grew appeared to be nice. I have kept the plants in covers [for future plantings] around where I sowed, to keep the soil around also moist. Picture below is a close up view. I separated Fortnight lily seedlings from one cover into 5-6.  There are a few more I put in temporary soil near the tomato plant. 

So it will be thrilling to keep a watch on Senecio.  So much for this post. Almost all set now.  If summer sun beats on the other half, I am ready with another piece of shade net for plant protection.

Beds widened, some reshapes

This is more of a 'journal entry' than anything thrilling happening in the yarden.

I made a rough sketch after measuring the Yarden, MS Paint and Picasa helping me.  My Yarden is flanked by two sheds and spans an area of 25x9 ft. The compound wall is about 7 feet high from the bed level. The by-lane is outside it on the west, so this portion gets the full thrust of the afternoon sun. The vines growing up the wall are also shown. The Senecio confusus is proposed to be grown where I have to remove the Thunbergia erecta, which has grown woody.

Necessities of my small yarden:

1. Two small stone benches for sitting and also standing to peep over the compound wall to the road outside. Shaded gray.  I will rest my back to the wall.
2. To arrange pots and have more plants in this area. The other gray rectangles. Kadapa slab platform.
3. Rain barrels on either side to collect water from roofs of the sheds from both sides. Blue circles.
4. A convenient passageway where I can squat and do work in the bed soil - sowing, weeding, etc. Unshaded area. I intend to embed stepping stones or clay tile path - to reduce weed growth.
5. Water tap. It is connected to our OH Tank. Small blue circle with 'T'.
6. A small shady place for starting seeds, protected from rain and sun. [Not yet allotted a space].
7. Two entrances.  Marked E.
8. Bottom right corner - BB is Bird bath, kept on a brick pile about 4 feet high.
9. The brown shaded areas.  Garden beds for growing plants.
10. Green rectangle across is the place I plan to have a step wall to keep 3-4 pots.
11. I will keep the Allspice tree growing there for a bit of natural shade.

I had saved some 'good portions' of the mud from excavations during the new house construction two years ago.  It was also used as base for RCC roofing.  Most of it actually became my yarden which got raised by about 3-4 inches and some of the extra were stored around the fiddlewood tree in the front yard. The lot had plenty of cement grits.

On 14th and 15th January, I took up the laborious work to get rid of the cement grits from the front yard lot.  I used a small hole hand sieve and got a full sack of fine soil.  It is sandy to some extent, which is good for percolation.  Most of the soil I got this way would go into the 10 big clay pots I bought a couple of months ago. In the coming season, I will have these as a new thing.  Gladioli will no longer be grown in the beds, but in one of these pots.

I had done this sieving when I made the bed last season also.  Since there were interruptions, I could not plan the beds properly.  Now after moving a few stone slabs and removing clutter from the yarden, it was time to widen the bed and have a proper bed. The next gardening season will be better organized.

I was munching fresh chickpea sitting on one of those stone benches.  A grand idea flashed. Action!  A narrow granite stone slab for keeping pots was put up.  It was a side piece of the slab we bought for the new house front doorstep.  Some slabs were rearranged.  I had become Popeye after having chickpea, not spinach!!  Energy and strength!! :)  Picture shows the slab in place and also the pots I have moved here under the shade net to protect from the summer sun which is going to blaze between February and May. 

All the spent plants had been removed last month.  I had planted some Evening Primrose in a 3-ft. bed.  It occupied nearly 15% of the total area and had started to send its underground runners all over.  I thought it could be invasive and not allow me to grow other plants in the small space.  I removed them. But there are a few in two small pots.

I have to remove Thunberbia purpurea which is very nice.  I had just put it with the root ball and covered with soil when I moved the plants from the other portion which we vacated in 2009. It must be saved from cuttings and grown in some other place.  The colour is deep.  So I do not want to lose it.  In its place, I want to grow Senecio confusus, seeds of which have been sent by my good friend from Mexico, Beverly.  Her Senecio vine has been successful in producing viable seeds from which she has grown a few seedlings already.

Time for some pictures. Beds not yet widened. 

Bottom right bed remains to be widened.  All other s done.  I removed the tomato plant also growing next to allspice [left bed].  

View from the other side.

Over to next post.  I will show the progress.