First I start by leaving the leaves on the ground throughout the winter. It’s harder to clean the leaves up when they are wet and soggy. They’re heavier for one and there is also a layer of dirt that comes up when you that them up.
I use a thatching rake. It seems awkward and heavy. Which it is and the blades of the rake are pretty close to being knives.
Then you start making a whole lot of piles of leaves depending on the texture and moisture. The different tree types have different characteristics you can use to your benefit.
I’ve read that it’s best to clean your leaves off in the fall, but that is what is best for lawns not a nutritious blend of natural graze native grasses to your area. I have sweet grass, sage, oregano, rye grass, wheat grass all mixed in with the dandelions and any wildflowers as well as some trees the birds have brought in, like Mountain Ash, Maple and Honeysuckle bushes.
I separate the maple leaves which are less wet and light and crunchy from the apple leaves and keep them in separate stacks. You should start at the base of the trees and work outward in 4 parts, in a clock like pattern.
You want to get all the leaves moved away from the trunk to help resist the insect larva from from under the leaves and climbing their way up to the flowers to become apple worms, for instance. Every tree has it’s own pest that feeds off it. I never really get all of the bugs out of the trees and because I am practicing permaculture I want to bring in the beneficial insects to eat the pest insects.
Then you take your stacks and layer your wheelbarrow so you can layer your compost ring. Sticks under dry leaves under wet soggy leaves and repeat. Add in layers of green which is grass trimmings, and a layer of dirty chicken straw every once in a while and ash from your wood stove to add many more layers of nutrients.
This is a good sustainable way to have several aged compost that can be used as long as you do it.
I like to go over the tree lines that was done the afternoon the previous day. I noticed in the afternoon when you’re tired is the place you start missing the finer details of your work. And it is the best place to start the next morning. It’s already loosened up a little or it’s just a small area that was missed.
It’s easier to get every tiny bit, by thatching very small areas that border over each other. Every little area ties into the neighboring areas and by the end of the day what looks like a patchwork quilt in the morning is a lovely bit of beauty in the evenings.
You take your clock/pie chart pattern outward from the leaf line out to the nearest tree neighbor that was finished yesterday. Or mostly finished. It is a lot easier to pick up a stack of rake debris on a patch that was previously and thoroughly raked.
Then I moved toward the blue spuce line. I lifted each blue spruce branch that was trapped under the tall grass that had them stuck down all the way down the front of the 125ft “wall of living art” blue spruce line, so the thatching rake didn’t tear up the lower branches. It adds different texture and nutrients to the debris of yesterday’s harvest. I like to mix up the layers of material in the compost ring.
Also known as a sand cherry it makes a pretty flowering hedge along the driveway.
It is better for growing as a source of foraging for the chickens with the dark red fruits that have a large pit and bitter skin, Although it does make a remarkably beautiful red wine.
If you’re tired, rest
Pick up the piles of debris and put them in the ring.