Leave your leaves

Those of you who know me or read my blog regularly know that my harangue in this season is to leave fallen leaves in place or at least manage them so they stay in the landscape. Just like nature handles them, in the woods and even on the prairies. After all, it’s free organic matter which the soil makes good use of in its natural cycles. 

Now I’m vindicated!

This was in my inbox this morning from the National Wildlife Federation: 

“Leaves are starting to change color and begin to fall to the ground. Did you know that leaving the leaves in your yard or garden not only saves you time and energy but also benefits wildlife?

Here are a few good reasons to put down the rake:

  • Provide habitat for wildlife: frogs, turtles, and salamanders rely on fallen leaves to provide cover and hibernation places; many moth and butterfly caterpillars overwinter in fallen leaves before emerging in spring
  • Provide food for wildlife: creatures like earthworms and millipedes reside in and decompose leaf litter, and also are themselves a source of food for bigger wildlife like birds and toads
  • Increase fertility of your soil: as the leaves decompose, nutrients are added to your soil, and also allows for greater water retention”

Enough said. 

Nature’s mulch

Rake if you have to….but put them back

If you can’t stand the look of the untouched leaf cover, by all means, rake them out of the beds, shred with the mower and then blow them back into the beds. You’ll be on your way to a lovely layer of mulch. Think of it as free fertilizer. Let nature do the breakdown for you and give you organics for free. No need to buy all that bagged mulch next spring. 

Here’s a hearty breakfast for the weekend that will fortify you for some garden work: 

Breakfast strata

Breakfast strata

2 t. olive oil

1 c. chopped onion

¾ cups unpeeled gold or red potato, finely diced

½  cup diced red bell pepper

1 t. salt

2 c. ciabatta, sourdough or Italian bread cut into 1-inch cubes

½ c. grated or crumbled cheese of choice (brie, parmesan, feta, cheddar, goat)

2 large eggs

1 t. dried herbs or 1 T. chopped fresh herbs of choice

¼ t. freshly ground black pepper

2 c. milk

Sauté vegetables about three minutes or until tender. Add vegetables to whisked eggs and milk; stir in seasonings. 

Place half of the bread into a loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Top with the remaining bread mixture and remaining cheese.

Pour the egg mixture over the bread mixture, pressing bread into the liquid. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until set. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Riffs on the recipe: 

French toast strata

Omit the vegetables and season the egg mixture with ½ c. sugar and 1 t. cinnamon. Serve with maple butter or maple syrup

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