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Here’s your recipe for making them into rich compost

Don’t bag those leaves for the county to collect. Use them in making your own compost. It takes about a bushel of leaves to make a gallon of quality compost, which contains more nutrients and fiber than peat moss and is less acetic.
    Yard debris compost is made by blending grass clippings with fall-harvested leaves. The compost is rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium and lots of important trace elements. Because the nitrogen from the leaves drains back into the stems of the branches from which they fell, yard debris compost contains less than one percent nitrogen, which is contributed mostly by the grass clipping.

Ancient Ailing Oaks

Q    I live in the St. Margaret’s area near the Bay Bridge. In my neighborhood, many, if not most, of the old oak trees are dead or dying. These are original trees in an area that was never farmed; I’m sure many of them are well over 100 years old. It is so distressing since they are beautiful and I love them and because it costs $2,000 to $3,000 to have them cut down. Do you know why they are dying? Is there anything I can do to save them? I think they are red oaks, though my tree identification skills are poor.
    Thanks so much for your help. I read your column every week and thoroughly enjoy it.
–Linda Williams, Annapolis   

A There is no way that I can determine the cause of death without seeing the conditions in which they are growing. I have cherry bark oak trees in my yard that are over 150 years old. I keep them healthy by vertical mulching every four to five years. When I moved here 22 years ago, they were in a sever state of decline, but after being vertically mulched, they revived. I suggest that you contact Mark Emmel at 301-345-2981. Mark is a good arborist and is familiar with vertical mulching.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

    Since grass clippings are not readily available in the fall, use this recipe to hasten the composting of leaves so that you will have compost ready for next spring:
    1. Build a compost bin that is at least five feet in diameter using snow fencing, turkey wire, pallets or such. The larger the bin, the better. Place the bin where it will not accumulate water.
    2. Fill a five-gallon pail with a shovel full of garden soil, one-half cup dish detergent and a cup of urea or ammonium nitrate fertilizer; top off with water. Stir thoroughly to create a soupy mud. The detergent helps wet the leaves, and the nitrogen-containing fertilizer replaces the grass clippings in providing the nitrogen microorganisms needed to build their bodies and digest the carbon in the leaves. The garden soil provides the necessary microorganisms, and the mud also helps wet the leaves.
    3. Place 12 to 18 inches of leaves on the bottom of the bin. First, pass the lawnmower through the leaves to chop them up and hasten the composting process.
    4. Use an empty coffee can or the like to wet the leaves with the muddy water. Before dipping into the muddy water, stir thoroughly to maintain a suspension.
    5. With a garden hose misting nozzle, wet the leaves thoroughly, washing some of the muddy water down through the layer.
    6. Repeat steps 3, 4 and 5 until the bin is full.
    7. Check the bin weekly. The composting process can be hastened by dumping your dirty dishwater over the surface of the compost pile. The detergent and grease will help wet the leaves.
    If you need exercise to stay in shape, mix the compost pile by turning it inside-out. Turning the pile in late January or February provides additional aeration, chopping the leaves and eliminating dry pockets that can occur in the initial building.

Where else can you be when ­nothing goes wrong?

There is nothing like an early June morning on the Chesapeake.
    A bit of smoky haze was still rising off of the Eastern Shore in the far distance as we cleared the ramp and eased out of the channel onto  glassy Bay surface.
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Building a safe place to launch lives

My youngest daughter, Alyson, recently graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in politics and government and a part-time job with a non-profit in D.C. — plus hopes and plans for changing the world. How had this happened, I wondered, how had time tracked me down and pushed me along, insisting that I move it, move it, ready or not?
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Three months of The Bay Gardener’s advice on planting, pruning and lawn care

   ~ April ~   

 

Grow a No-Till Garden
    Start your garden as soon as you can work the soil, certainly in April if not already in March.
    Do not spade. Save your back and your soil by planting no-till.
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Please don’t crape murder it

I find crape myrtle 10 times more attractive than white birch trees, which we in New Hampshire consider a weed but Marylanders insist on trying to grow against the odds. It is a waste of time and money to plant white birch in southern Maryland because the summers are too hot and the winters do not provide sufficient cold to satisfy the tree’s dormancy needs. We have the ideal climate to grow crape myrtle, a tree (or shrub) that adds so much to any landscape.
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Hunting these game birds is only half the fun

The pheasant erupted through the standing corn like a Poseidon missile. This rocket was sheathed in psychedelic feathers of blue, green, red, white and ochre. Announcing itself with a raucous, crowing scream, it forced itself up on thundering wings through the seven-foot-tall stalks and into a clear blue South Dakota sky.
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In creating her business, Krista ­Sermon broke more than one ­tradition

Krista Sermon’s desire to cook simmered all through law school and beyond. She wanted to further her culinary skills, but she felt pressured to practice law. So for three years she kept at it, working one year in debt collection, a second in family law and a third in social services in Baltimore.
    During her first pregnancy, she decided to listen to her heart.
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Fall’s the time to get to work

Warm days and cool nights, combined with shorter daylight hours, are what the doctor ordered for the favorite grasses of Chesapeake Country: bluegrass and fescues. They’re called cool-season grasses because they germinate, produce roots and lap up nutrients once summer’s heat shuts down. So now’s the time to get to work on next year’s perfect lawn.

Test Your Soil
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Often our best learning comes from questions rather than from answers, from wondering about seemingly small details or great mysteries …

The Bay. When said and heard that way, the words mean more than a dictionary’s definition, more than a body of water, sheltered somehow from a larger lake or sea. The Bay means that a person knows about a special place.
    This awareness is a gift to the people who have it, a relationship to the place and to other people who share the knowledge. The more we learn, from the Bay and from Bay people, the more valuable the gift becomes.
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She saw Annapolis’s potential as a center of art

When Cynthia McBride was a kid driving a tractor on her family’s Minnesota farm, art was not on her mind or in her future. At her father’s right hand, she watched as he managed the farm, purchased seed and equipment, planned for future crops. The seed of art that flourishes in the largest art gallery in historic Annapolis sprouted with her mother, a painter with a home studio.
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