Winter blues get me down, even before the Christmas holidays and with New years parties I still feel a little low. I have tried anti-depressants which just made me more sad and fat which made me angry and sad. Gardening makes me the happiest, so I needed to figure out how to garden in the winter. I had a friend who was a nurse tell me once that what helps reduce winter blues is sunlight. She told me that her sister would get a tanning package in the winter, not to keep up with a tan but to get more “light therapy” Sunlight gives you vitamin D and vitamin K which reduce sadness and loss of energy.
There is very little sunlight to go around during the winter so I work really hard at being outside when it is light out. I can do inside chores when it is dark out. But I live in Pennsylvania. It is a balmy 41 degrees Fahrenheit outside right now, how do I garden? Got to be honest it’s not a lot of gardening, its much more of garden prep for spring since I do not have any greenhouses for winter veggies. It gets me outside in the light and the fresh air.
We have a few pine trees on our property and a whole bunch of other trees that drop their leaves every year. Oaks, Maples, Dog woods, Sweet gums. I have super high expectations of making a whole bunch of gardening space in the next couple of years and the huz is mostly on board. I noticed that most of the neighbors collect their leaves at the curb and the city picks them up. Life is crazy busy, I get that works for most people. I am greedy I want to keep my leaves, I have read that they make some of the best mulch/compost for gardening and flowers. Most importantly I am into free or super cheap! I don’t mind getting my hands dirty and I don’t mind putting in the sweat work.
Earlier this fall when most the leaves were falling and we had to keep up with appearances we raked and used our Torro leaf blower/vac to get a lot of leaves contained. We super underestimated how many leaves would have at the new place! We put leaves in the raised beds.
We used chicken wire and stakes and made a three foot high by eight feet long by four foot wide leaf corral and filled it.
And then we piled up the leaves in the flower beds and raked them around all the bases of the trees and raked them under all the pine trees.
Lastly my husband just started blowing all of them into the woods.
Now that it is winter and colder out, no more leaves to rake. Yahoo! but all the plants are dying off from the frosts over night and it isn’t snowing yet. I have read that leaves break down faster to make amazing compost/soil/fertilizer quicker if they are mulched and if you add used coffee grounds. So I have done some asking and Starbucks has a grounds to garden program where you can just take used coffee grounds for free! I have also found that not all Starbucks locations do this. The Starbucks that is located close to my work is situated inside of the Target, so do not participate. The manager was super sweet. I asked if I could just stop by and ask if they needed to empty their used grounds bin. He said he can’t promise any but they are more than happy to give me whatever they have when I stop by.
So until the snow gets here I have gone out with my vac/mulcher and have sucked up leaves already piled high in the gardens and are mulching them down smaller and putting them almost right back where I sucked them up from.
Might seem a bit silly but I didn’t have time earlier in the fall to mulch them all then. I have time now. It gets me outside for about an hour to two hours before the sun sets. In that amount of time I can fill the collection bag two to three times. Yes I even mulch them when they are soaking wet from all the rain, because this summer it rained ALL THE TIME.
The trick is to have a big long screwdriver in your back pocket. One that the husband won’t freak out if it gets dirty or a bit nicked up. About every other minute you need to take off the collection bag and un-jam the leaves using the screwdriver. The other place leaves get jammed up is the big tube you suck them up with. You have to just reach in with your arm and pull them out. The last place you have to un-jam is inside where the blades rotate. UNPLUG the Vac/mulcher before cleaning any leaves out. You have to take off the big black tube and use the screwdriver in around the blades, it is going to look and act like mud caked up in there. It might be a bit of mud too but it is very finely chopped up leaves, and because they are wet they stick together and clump up.
How to know when to pause and clean out the vac/mulcher! Very important-you don’t want to blow out your motor. When you hear-or actually don’t hear the blades mulching your leaves. Another key indicator of when to clean out around the blades on the inside is when you hear the motor of the the vac/mulcher increase in pitch, it will start to whine high and loud. It will not be long before you smell a burning.
When the snow hits usually around the end of January is when I start some of my seeds inside such as Bell peppers. They can sit in that dirt for 6-8 weeks before poking out their little leaves. Just in time to start gardening outside again.
This is how the RickabaughReviews get rid of their Winter blues!