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Helen Chesnut: Fluffy leaves make light work of autumn task

The newly fallen, dry leaves were a treat to scoop up

I had decided against repeating one of last autumn’s more strenuous tasks. A morning of trudging up and down the street with bags of leaves piled in a wheelbarrow, and pushing loads of them uphill to a storage area at the back of the garden, just about did me in.

Then, in a mini-miracle of superb timing, an easier repetition of the same project fell into place. Betty, a neighbour two doors from me on a one-acre property, has an immense maple tree with oversized leaves in the back garden. That was where I gathered leaves last year.

This autumn, the leaves on that tree had not yet begun to fall at the beginning of November. Then, late on the morning of Nov. 9, Betty called to tell me that a hefty batch of leaves, just fallen from the tree, were light and fluffy. And rain was predicted to begin that afternoon.

As it happened, my gardening friend Laurel was about to arrive at noon. I had told her my decision about the leaves. She had offered to help.

Off we went, wheelbarrows, bags and rakes in tow. The newly fallen, dry leaves were a treat to scoop up. Pressed down and filled, the bags remained light.

I now have six big bags of compressed, whole leaves. Laurel has taken two more to run a mower over for me. That will produce a fine mulch for use next year.

Emptied plots are mostly covered already with other leaves, straw and chopped plant waste, but I’ll soon be topping the leaner mulch layers with some of the big maple leaves.

The bagged leaves will be useful as well for covering the root vegetables and tucking around and between leek and kale plants as hard freezing weather is predicted..

The rest of the leaves will serve as moisture-retaining, soil-cooling mulches around plants and between rows as the weather begins heating up in spring and early summer.

Another leafy bonanza. After losing some of the summer’s leafy green vegetables to bunny-munching, I decided to try for a well-protected fall salad garden.

I sowed flats of lettuce and curly endive indoors in August and transplanted in September, into two areas facing each other across a path separating vegetable plots.

As protection against both Bunny and cooling weather, I arranged the transplants for easy covering.

One plot of baby butterhead lettuces and miniature bronze romaines is covered by a length of light plastic tunnelling over wire hoops.

I used floating row cover laid over wire hoops for the other planting of endive, red lettuce and miniature green romaine.

Because strong supports hold up the coverings, as cold weather approaches I’ll be able to easily protect the plants with additional layers of protective materials.

Next year. Because Bunny also ate most of the bush bean plants, I’ve begun preparing further critter-proof protections to install over and around vulnerable plantings. I’ll be describing them next week.


Open house and market. Dinter Nursery, 2205 Phipps Rd. in Duncan, is hosting their annual Open House and Local Makers Market today (Saturday, Nov. 25). The nursery is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Makers Market with local vendors will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The day will feature door prizes, local live and cut Christmas trees, wreaths and more. See details and a list of local vendors at

Rock gardening demonstration. The Vancouver Island Rock and Alpine Garden Society (VIRAGS) is currently renovating the rock and alpine garden, created by the society, in Beacon Hill Park. They are inviting the public to observe and learn about the process of creating “crevice” gardens on Saturday, Dec. 2, starting at 10 a.m. Learn about preparing a perfect home for plants in rocky places. At planting time in the spring, the society will hold another demonstration in celebration of this little gem of a garden.

Abkhazi Garden festive season. Beginning today (Saturday, Nov. 25) through to Sunday, Jan. 7, the Teahouse at Abkhazi Garden, 1964 Fairfield Rd. In Victoria, will be offering a Festive High Tea.To avoid disappointment, make reservations at 778-265-6466. The Gift Shop, located at the Teahouse, features local art, pottery, fabrics, jewellery, stationery and soaps. Garden and Teahouse are open from Wednesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Details and menus at