VINTAGE GIFT GUIDE

Another sign that I'm getting a little older is that I think getting a vintage gift would be lovely. When you're a kid you want shiny and new (ew ... it's used?). But the idea of someone hunting for a perfect, unique gift is a lovely sentiment to me now.

So I bring you my vintage gift guide. Of course, half the fun of buying vintage is the hunt, but here are a few of my favorites. If you are new to shopping on Etsy, until December 12 they are offering a promotion in which you get $10 to spend on another purchase with a $50 initial purchase with this link.



1. Cocktail picks set: I almost didn't add this sweet little set because I absolutely love it and I'll be sad when it's sold. But I don't need it. Probably. Somebody needs it though. $16.30 but it ships from France, so get on it.

2. Tin cup: It's cute, from the 1930s, charmingly dented and could be used for about a billion things. $45.35, but it's another piece from France so shipping will be higher.

3. Rattan mirror: Serena and Lily has a mirror exactly like this that will set you back more than four times as much. Pick up this one for a fraction of the price and you'll have a much better story to go with it. $43.48 and yeah, from France. I think I got stuck in an Etsy French loop or something. 

4. Ironstone tureen: Bestill my heart. This is a beauty and in case you hadn't noticed, ironstone is tres chic these days. $75, and thankfully ships from the U.S.

5. Mini globe: I'm not sure why I like this so much, but I think this tiny (8 inches in diameter) globe is so cute and would look great on a desk or bookshelf. Plus, globes are just cool. $90.

6. French olive basket: This galvanized bucket, which was used to collect olives, has just the right about of age on it. $75, and ships from Oregon (not France).

7. Brass faux bamboo box: There is no such thing as too many boxes. Everyone needs cute things to collect other things and this fits the bill. $28.

8. Lakeshore sign: This looks a little "crunchy" (to borrow a phrase from "American Pickers") but it would be perfect for a cabin, beach house or summer home. Or even just a beachy decorating scheme.  $165.

9. Brass and marble hanging planter: It's brass and marble and you can put just about anything in it. What's not to love? $48.

10. Amazing teak nesting tables: OK, these are expensive. But they are incredible and someone I know needs to own these. So one of you, please buy these, and send me a picture of them looking amazing in your house. (You can see this falls under the "Gifts for yourself" category.) $695.

11. Metal flower frog. I love vintage frogs because they are cute and interesting and useful. This is a little charmer. $12.50. 

12. Spun fiberglass chaise lounge: I have no idea what is going on with this chair but it's the craziest patio furniture I've ever seen. And for that reason alone it's pretty fantastic. Pick your favorite eccentric family member or friend and have this baby delivered straight to their house. $285. 

In case you missed my Custom Gifts for Gardeners gift guide, you can find it here

How's your shopping going? I'm pretty much stalled out with lots left to buy.


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A WINTER CONTAINER CHALLENGE

One of my favorite projects to do this time of year is decorate outside with winter containers. In the past I've used a combination of found and purchased materials. I always cut my own red twig dogwood because the even though the dogwood you can buy is brighter, straighter and, by all accounts, prettier, it's also incredibly expensive. I also usually find greens as well, be it from trees in the yard or by raiding the cart full of branches cut from trees at Home Depot, which are free for the taking, but I occasionally supplement that stash with fancy evergreens purchased in bundles.

In the past, though, I've purchase a lot of other elements of the outdoor containers. I bought birch branches a few years ago that I save from year to year. I have also bought huge bundles of beautiful eucalyptus which really do make for stunning displays. I've purchases giant pinecones and faux berries, all of which I've saved. I'll be honest, buying some materials helps make really stunning displays and it is certainly easier and less time consuming than foraging for materials

This year, though, I'm not going to spend a penny on outdoor containers. I'm looking at it as a challenge. I'll allow myself to use items I've saved from year to year, but I'm not going to spend any money on anything that goes in the containers.

I spent a good amount of time over the weekend collecting materials, probably about four hours. My grandma's house has foundation plantings (perhaps come kind of arborvitae) that have gone nuts, so I spent a lot of time pruning the worst of them. That netted a lot of material for containers and a fair amount of dead wood to be disposed of. I also went to one of my secret dogwood gathering spots to collect what I could. Unfortunately I didn't come close to getting the amount I needed and I'll have to go back to a spot I found last year for more. 


All of that led to a rather ridiculous scene in my car.



With all foraging and a case of frozen fingers (I cannot find my winter gloves; where do they go every summer?) I only got as far as doing two containers for a neighbor and, to be honest I was in a bit of a rush and chasing daylight. Still, I think they turned out OK and the neighbors will enjoy them. The design is pretty simple: a thick bundle of dogwood circled by 'Limelight' hydrangea flowers as the centerpiece, with prunings from grandma's house and a bit of some kind of pine (also from grandma's) to fill in.

There are many more outdoor containers to decorate. And with my found-materials only pledge, I'll be testing my creative mettle. 

Do you do winter container designs?





MY GUIDE TO BLACK FRIDAY

I've never done the Black Friday shopping thing, but I'm not opposed to picking up a good deal online. Sad as it is, I tend to pick up a lot of things for myself on Black Friday and Cyber Monday because the deals are so good that it's a great time to stock up on staples. So here's a roundup of some of the best Black Friday deals I could find. Oh, and don't forget to use Ebates for extra savings (go to a store through the Ebates website or use the browser extension to get a percent cash back at participating stores.

Some links below may be affiliate links.

All calendars, including this Rifle Paper Co. Paradise Gardens beauty, are 25% off at Paper Source. (3.5% cash back through Ebates.)





A whole bunch of gardening books are 30% off or more on Amazon, including the very hefty Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees & Shrubs, which is a great reference book any gardener would love to have.



If you have people on your list who are impossible to buy for, The Grommet is a great place to look for unusual gifts. They are offering 20% orders over $100 and free shipping on order over $25, which means you could pick up these gorgeous goatskin gardening gloves and a few other things for a song. (2.5% cash back through Ebates.)




Buffalo check is the pattern of the moment and you could pick up this shirt (or anything else) from J. Crew while they have a whopping 40% off with the code HOLIDAY. (10% cash back through Ebates.)




My Garden School, an online British garden school, is offering good discounts on its classes. Definitely a great gift for the gardener who has everything. I've been eyeing up the "Planting the Piet Oudolf Way," taught by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury, for awhile and it's on sale for 50% off—about $155 during their Black Friday sale.




Everything at Crate & Barrel is 15% and shipping is free on purchases over $49 with the code SAVE15. This marble lazy susan is a stunner that any frequent entertainer would like. (1% cash back through Ebates.)


Speaking of gifts for the home, everything at Williams-Sonoma is 20% off with free shipping using code THANKS. The best kitchen towels in the world are the classic striped towels. If you've never tried them, you should. You'll never go back to using anything else.



A few months ago we got a Sonos Playbar and a Play 3 speaker and we absolutely love it. Amazon has the Play 1 speaker on sale for $50 off, and it's the first time I've seen a sale on Sonos products.




All of the prints at Our Fairfield Garden are on sale for just $10 with free shipping. Frame these up and you have an amazing gift.





Wisteria is offering 25% off everything, including these adorable shell stocking holders, with code OURFAMILY.



Serena and Lily is also offering 25% off of everything (use code 25EARLY). Be careful checking it out because it's easy to fall in love at Serena and Lily. Try that 25% off code, but if that doesn't work, you can still get 20% off with the code THANKYOU. It's not hard to pick something I'd love, but today this inlaid bone lamp caught my eye. Sadly the discount does not apply to art (which, apparently is what the asterisk by the "everything" on their website refers to), which is a shame because they have an amazing collection.




I always get the urge to clean and organize this time of year so the 30% off a single item at The Container Store can come in handy. I'd try to use it on something a little more expensive, like this pantry starter kit, to make the most of that deal. (8% cash back through Ebates.)


Shipping is free on the beautiful handmade and delectable skin care products at the Gardenchick store on Etsy. Check out the Snowflake Shea Lotion Bar. Can you say teacher gifts? (2% cash back through Ebates.)




It's not exactly exciting, but Sephora has crazy deals for Black Friday on all kinds of gift sets and some products, including my favorite facial cleanser, Purity Made Simple. I usually stock up during this big sale. But go early because everything sells out quickly. (4% cash back through Ebates.)




Don't get me wrong, I love a good old-fashioned book. But you can't beat a Kindle when you're traveling or reading in bed at night with someone sleeping next to you. I love my Paperwhite. Big discounts happening on Amazon on Kindles, but they often sell out too, so don't mess around and snatch one up.




CB2 is giving 15% off through November 28 with code SAVE15 and free shipping on orders over $49. It's another good place to pick up something for a difficult-to-shop-for friend. Like these flashy gold wire bowls, which would also make great holiday decorations. (1% cash back through Ebates.)

I'll be honest, I'm miffed about this one. The Emily Ley Simplified Daily Planner, which I bought for the first time last year, changed my life. I loved it so much that I ordered this year's more than a month ago. And now it's on a big sale for Black Friday. My loss is your gain. I love this thing and you or someone you know will too.



I discover Antipodes products a couple years ago. They are organic and free of all the bad stuff and I love them. But they are not sold in a lot of stores and they never go on sale. Except, apparently, for on Black Friday, when everything is 25% off with the code HOLIDAY16. I love their serums and oil, but use their face moisturizers too.




Anthropologie has 30% off everything with the code LETSGO, which is a great deal. I think this cup and saucer set, which is gorgeous but priced at a level that few people would buy it for themselves, would be a lovely gift for someone who loves collecting beautiful cups. (1% cash back through Ebates.)


I love me some Kendra Scott earrings and so does just about everyone else. Use the code SALE20 for 20% off everything and free shipping on all orders. They even have a design-your-own area so you can get exactly what you like. My faves are the smaller Lee earrings.




One of the splurges I made in the downstairs bathroom was the scalloped mirror, but it was so worth it. Scenario Home, which seems to never have sales, is offering 20% off everything through Monday with the code CYBERDEAL20.




One Kings Lane is offering 20% off of everything. This one hurts because there is a lot of stuff I'd like to snatch up for myself there, but I told myself I was only going to buy things I needed for myself, not just pretty stuff I've had my eye on. If I were going to pick something up I think I'd go for some of the art I've been considering. I'm loving Teil Duncan's figure studies (although I like some of her other work better and I keep hoping it will show up on OKL) and T.S. Harris' beach scenes.

Now get out there and snatch up those deals!



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GOODNIGHT GARDEN

Well it had to come eventually. The frost that miraculously held off until after mid-November finally came, more than a month after our first frost last year.

I knew it was coming, but somehow in my gardener's brain I had blocked out how dramatically a hard frost changes the garden overnight. I woke up Saturday morning to brown foliage hanging on plants, pouty petals on the few remaining flowers and a general pallor over the landscape.


Of course the work in the garden is not finished even though if you can mark an end to the gardening season it is certainly the first hard frost. I'll dig dahlias this coming weekend, continue cleaning up the  perennials that add little to the winter landscape and continue to batten down the garden's hatches for winter.

Later Saturday, a brutally cold day with winds that whipped snowflakes around like a snow globe, the sun came out and I saw there was still a little beauty left in the garden afterwards. With the right ray of light, the amber and brown tones so prevalent in the garden now come to life and transform into gold.
This poor 'At Last' Rose was just starting to open when its time was cut short. 

It will have to be enough to hold me over until the sun brings warmth again, several calendar pages from now. Good night, garden. You did well well this year. Thanks for that.





FRIDAY FINDS

So, I'm not entirely sure what happened, but apparently Thanksgiving is next week. I am rather shocked. So I guess that means I better spend some time this weekend figuring out what kind of pie (or pies) I'm going to make. That's my contribution to the meal. One year I made the turkey. It was terrible. Now I stick with pie and we're all happy with that arrangement.

But if you are hosting Thanksgiving, you must check out the to-do list of Mr. Thanksgiving himself, Stephen. He's so organized he actually has time to take some photos and post on his blog on Thanksgiving. Sometimes I aspire to be this organized but then I realize it's better to just surround yourself with people who will do this kind of organizing for you, because some people are cut out for it and others, like me, just aren't.

I want oyster cornbread dressing. So much that I may make it for dinner some night. Is that weird? By the way, if you are on the looking for basic Thanksgiving info, the New York Times has amassed a ton of information and recipes.

I am opposed to both eating dessert out of mason jars and to using light cream cheese for cheesecake. But these still sound good to me.


I shared this picture on Instagram earlier this week. Would you believe I took that photo of one of my 'Cafe au Lait' dahlias last weekend? They have no business blooming like that in the middle of November but I wasn't going to tell them. Of course shortly after that I harvested all the flowers and cut off the stalks so I can dig the tubers soon.

This is an interesting spin on holiday decorating. It wouldn't work in every house and it's certainly not traditional, but changing it up can be good.

http://gardentherapy.ca/ombre-melt-and-pour-soap

It seems like soap-making is quite the thing lately, but these from Garden Therapy are pretty much the most gorgeous soaps I've ever seen.

I can't help it ... I get all sappy around the holidays and I love this Thanksgiving story.

Did you catch my Etsy gift guide for gardeners earlier in the week? If you're eyeing some of those things up, don't delay because they all take time to make. I'll have more gift guides, including some Black Friday deals next week. In the meantime, do you have Amazon Prime? I'll be honest, it sort of ruins you for anything other than two-day shipping and it's way too easy to just buy it on Amazon rather than seeking something out locally (which I try not to do), but it is very handy for some things and we've been using it for a lot for the movies and television. And Amazon has pretty phenomenal Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals. Here's an affiliate link for a 30-day trial, which would get you through the holiday shopping season, if you're interested in checking it out.

After a high of almost 70 yesterday and a warm day forecasted for today, a cold front is due to come through in the evening and I'll be dealing with more leaves tomorrow in 38-degree temperatures. It's not like I didn't know it was coming but that doesn't make me like it any more. What are you doing for Thanksgiving and what are your plans for the weekend?

GIFT GUIDE: CUSTOM GIFTS FOR GARDENERS

I held off as long as I could on holiday posts but I think it's time to get the show on the road. I'm planning to do a handful of gift guides (I'm sort of obsessed with them) this year and I thought I'd kick it off with one that you really have to get going on soon. Everything featured here is handmade by Etsy artists and they need a little lead time for orders so don't delay. All of these can be customized for a special touch. Don't forget to use Ebates, which gives you cash back on purchases at most stores, including Etsy. If you want to check it out, here's a referral link if you care to use it. 


1. Handpainted sign: I think this little sign is so cute and any gardener with little helpers around would love it. I could even see working for a community garden. The same seller has all kinds of other cute signs as well.

2. Timber bench: Every garden needs a spot to sit but benches with backs can take up more visual space than you may have room for. This mod bench would work just about anywhere in the garden.

3. Bee stepping stone: Any gardener, particularly one with a passion for pollinators would love this beautiful stepping stone (which also comes in a green color). Plus you will win the contest for the heaviest present.

4. Custom garden tool badge: What a great touch for a favorite tool. This would be especially handy for someone who takes their tools to other gardens to work. No one will question whose spade it is.

5. Copper garden markers: These are flashy and beautiful and I can only imagine how gorgeous they would be after they develop a patina. They are custom stamped and come in sets of four so you could pick labels for special plants or perhaps for a container that sits somewhere they could be appreciated every day.

6. Metal chickens sculpture: If your favorite gardener can't have real chickens, maybe this is the next best thing.

7. Copper birdbath fountain: Can't you just imagine a bird enjoying a dip in this beauty? And it should make a lovely trickling sound in the garden. A special gift for a special gardener.

8. Garden belt: If Santa brings me one thing this year, I hope this is it. I love this belt, which also comes in a version with a scissors holder and other specialized tool belts. Maybe this would, once and for all, make me stop losing tools in the garden. I also love the Floral Belt and I think I'm leaning toward that one being a better fit for me (since I'm on the vertically challenged side).

9. Metal garden sign: Everyone loves a personalized gift and a beautiful sign for a person's garden is pretty much a no-brainer.


Anything strike your fancy (for you or for giving)?

WRAPPING UP A GARDEN PROJECT FOR FALL

Work on the oval circle garden continued this weekend and by the end of the day on Sunday I let out  a sigh of relief. If a blizzard came tomorrow (unlikely as we've not yet had a frost), I'd be OK with how far this project got this season.


On Saturday I reset the outer circle of cobblestones. One thing I had not expected was for them not to fit perfectly. This, of course, was a ridiculous notion, but until I set the first segment it had never even occurred to me that the math wouldn't work out for me to only be able to use whole cobblestones. This was a bit of a predicament as a half-hearted attempt to split one using a small chisel and a light hammer left me frustrated and suffering from very sore wrists. I only needed two pieces so I just left the holes and planned to deal with it later.


On Sunday I got a truckload of paver base. The place I got it from called it limestone screenings, other places call it paver base or road base and in some places in the country its stone dust. I think the difference is primarily the type of stone it comes from and here we have lots of limestone. In any case, it's a coarse sandlike material with tiny bits of stone in it that compacts nicely. The first time I used limestone screenings for a small path ages ago, I was convinced it had made the soil around it extremely alkaline and therefore inhospitable to most plants. That didn't work for that application because I has put it under flagstones, filled in the gaps with soil and tried to grow groundcover between the stones. As one plant after another failed there, I realized it was probably the limestone base.

Fortunately, since the path will be completely separate from the soil, held at bay by metal edging and cobblestones, I shouldn't have to worry about that effect on plants.

After dumping the base in the paths, I tamped the entire thing down. Then I wet it and let the water filter through before going back and filling in low areas with more base. I could have used a little more base but with one cubic yard of the stuff weighing about 1.2 tons and me borrowing a half-ton truck, I wasn't able to get as much as I would have liked. Once I had it smoothed and leveled by eye (since this is going to be topped with gravel it doesn't need to be perfectly level like it would have to be if I were setting stone on top it), I tamped it again, wet it down again and then walked away.

While I was at the nursery getting the base I found two broken cobbles that I figured I could put in the holes where I had gaps. They aren't a perfect fit, but I think once the cobbles get some age on them they'll blend in. And if they don't I can always change them out later and I'm only out the $1 they charged me for them.

Originally I was going to get the gravel this fall as well, but I've rethought that. Since I  might be a little light on paver base, I'm going to let it settle and compact over the winter and then decide in spring if I should add more base or just top it up with all gravel. There's a significant cost difference: the paver base was $20 a ton and the gravel is $100 per ton. The other advantage to waiting on the gravel is that I don't have to worry about soil or seeds ending up in it and I can start next spring with clean and completely weed-free paths. In fact, I may wait to put the gravel in until after I plant the beds as there's sure to be some soil flying about.

Since this project is almost wrapped up for the season, here's a quick look at what's been done.

This is what the garden, the first I'd ever made from scratch (14 years ago now) looked like at its best.  You'd notice it was nothing special even then.


It's a little easier to get a feel for the positioning and layout of the garden from Google Earth.


Here's a rough design concept for the renovated garden.


The first step was to move out the plants. I moved what I was keeping but was not returning to the garden and clustered all the chives for the chive hedge together where they will overwinter and I'll replant them in spring.

Then Mr. Much More Patient and I spent some quality time arguing about math as we laid out the location for the paths. I reviewed the serious mistakes I made when I designed the paths originally and ripped out all the dreaded landscape fabric.



Then I was left to do a little light digging.



With the paths dug, we installed the metal edging for each "spoke."


And that led to where it is now.


That means that the only thing left to do this fall is to level out the heaps of soil. And then the fun begins. I can't wait to really get stuck in to the planting plan. What a great way to spend a cold winter day.


FRIDAY FINDS

Thank you all so much for your nice comments on Wednesday's post of beautiful gardens. Few places can bring peace like a garden. Maybe I need to do that more often on the blog.

But for now it's Friday and a weekend in the garden will be an excellent thing indeed.


Now, on the other hand, if you're looking for an excuse to stay inside, I have one of those too. If you haven't already heard, "The Crown" on Netflix is fabulous. So good, in fact, that I'm on my second viewing where I really pay attention and that goes up to three if you count when I was doing other stuff in the background.

Speaking of movies, I am absolutely going to buy this one. Let's face it, there aren't a lot of gardening movies out there.

For the first time in my gardening life, we haven't had a killing frost (or any frost) by the time I usually dig my dahlias. This is problematic, so I've been looking for advice online. The Dahlia Society tells me it's OK to dig on November 15 even if we've not frosted, but in an effort to get eyes showing so I can divide clumps of tubers this fall, I'm going to chop off all the stems this weekend (making sure to cover them if they are hollow to prevent water damaging the crown). Matt's tutorial on dahlia care in fall is excellent and you should all do as I have and pin it or save it in some way.

It's not bragging to say I make pretty good tasting pies. Unfortunately they are usually not pretty. This should help. 

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The family dining room got a bold and colorful wall treatment and more modern art. Architectural Digest photo

Cote de Texas did a lovely post on Architectural Digest's story showing for the first time how the Obamas decorated parts of the White House. She went back and found how various rooms looked during other presidencies and it's fascinating to see what stayed and what changed over the years. I love the modern art the Obamas have used.

AD also did a story about the book All the Presidents' Gardens and shares a few fun facts here.

Speaking of famous gardens, Gardenista did a post on ideas you can steal from Sissinghurst. I would suggest that "be inspired by" might be a better term because it's not like throwing up a curved brick wall with a window in it is something you can just throw up on a whim, but I'm happy to look at Sissinghurt anyway.

That's it for this week. Last weekend was all about leaf management for me. Although plenty more have fallen, I'm hoping to only go through that process once more this year and they are going to wait until next week. This weekend, work will continue on the circle garden. My goal is to have the inner circle of cobblestones set and the paver base installed by the end of the weekend. What's on your agenda this weekend?


4 TIPS FOR USING A CHIPPER-SHREDDER

I spent many, many hours dealing with leaves last weekend. I say "dealing with" because removing the leaves from the lawn and getting them to their final resting place involves a series of machines and every once in awhile an actual human-powered rake.

My method mostly involves using our lawn tractor to mulch and bag the leaves on the lawn and then to run them over to the chipper-shredder, run them through that, then add them to the compost bin.


A quick break for a disclaimer: Both the lawn tractor and chipper-shredder I have came from Troy-Bilt and were given to me to test as part of my work for them as part of their Saturday6 blogging team. (You can read my reviews of them here and here.)  Of course I've not been told what to say and all opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post, but since I'm using Troy-Bilt tools in it, I wanted to give you the full spiel.

Because there were a lot of leaves down, it didn't take me long to suck up two bags full with the mower bagger. So I fired up the chipper-shredder about every 10 minutes. Repeatedly.

Which means that I have a whole new slew of tips about using a chipper-shredder. The one I have is the largest and most powerful model that Troy-Bilt makes, but it's still a homeowners' version, as will most chipper-shredders that people use at their homes will be. The point is, don't expect these machines to do what professional model chipper-shredders, like you see arborists and city street crews using, do.

Here are a few tips I picked up from lots of firsthand experience over the course of the summer and particularly into fall.

A closeup of leaves after shredding.

1. A LITTLE BIT AT A TIME

Chipper-shredders have a ton of safety features built into them, which is good, particularly if you've ever seen the movie "Fargo." Pretty much the only ways you can get yourself in trouble are sticking your hands into the machine (which is not easy to do) or not wearing eye protection in case something comes flying out of it (which I've not experienced but I don't take chances with my eyes).

But one sure way to block the whole program up is to try to put too much through it at one time. If you put too many leaves in the hopper at one point, nothing gets sucked through, so in order to clear it you either have to turn the machine off, pull everything out and start over or start poking around with a large stick. Yes, I did that. Yes, I realize you should absolutely NEVER EVER do that. But the first method for clearing is a big drag.

Better you just avoid any of it by putting in small amounts of material at one time. This meant that instead of just dumping the entire collection bag from the mower into the hopper, I would gradually pour it out. This took a little more time but it was much faster than constantly stopping to clear the clog.

2. DRIER IS BETTER

I started working on my leaf collection project first thing in the morning when the leaves were still  covered in dew so they were pretty wet. What I found was the damper the material I was putting in was, the more likely the machine was to clog and the smaller the amount I put in at one time needed to be. Once I figured it this out things went smoothly, but upon further review, I think I would have saved a lot of time if I had just waited for the sun to dry everything off before I started putting stuff through the shredder.

The same goes for other garden waste. I also put through most of what I cut out of the garden. This was harder as stems and other plant material didn't drop to the bottom of the hopper as easily as leaves, but I got around that by doing some strategic loading. Small bundles at a time were needed.

By shredding all my leaves I was able to fit them all in the compost bin.

3. RESPECT SIZE LIMITS

My chipper-shredder can grind up branches up to 3 inches in diameter and it does a great job with it. In fact, I wish I had more branches to put through it because it makes the best mulch I've ever seen. But when they say 3 inches, they mean 3 inches. I put a branch that was probably only 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter in it and it ate it all up, until it got to a big knot, or maybe where it had attached to another branch, which was bigger than 3 inches and it stopped it up good. This, of course, meant  stopping the whole thing, making very sure that all the parts were finished spinning, and then going in there to pull it out, which was not easy.

4. KEEP THE BAG STRAIGHT

I suppose that there are different kinds of collection systems for different chipper-shredders. But on the one I have, there is a long bag that attaches to the chute. I quickly found out that it's crucial that the bag is laying flat on the ground, not twisted. When you start up the machine it's obvious when all is right because the bag will inflate.

I would estimate that shredding the leaves I collected about doubled the time I spent on that project last weekend. That's not an insignificant amount of time. But what I ended up with was lovely, tiny bits of leaves that will break down very quickly and all fit in my compost bin. I've always saved leaves, but before I shredded them, I would just keep them in piles by the compost bin, allowing some to break down by themselves for leaf mould and I'd add the rest to the compost as needed. In either case, the decomposition process took a long time.

My hope is that with everything so nicely shredded, I'll have a lot of finished compost to use by late spring or early summer. If that is the case, the extra work will have been well worth it.

Really good compost requires layering green material with brown material at a ratio of about 1-to-20. Comfrey is a great plant for the compost, so I cut all the leaves off my comfrey patch and layered them on top of shredded leaves. There is so much moisture in these leaves that it was difficult to shred them without it ending up like it had been through a juicer, but they will still break down quickly. After everything starts breaking down, I'll give the pile a good stir to aerate it and add water if necessary.

There are more leaves still to fall, of course, and even though the compost bin is getting pretty full (I've been dutifully layering it with greens as well), I have plans for the rest of the shredded leaves I'll produce. More and more I've been reading about the importance of fall mulching of garden beds, and finely shredded leaves are a perfect material for that. They will certainly be put to good use there. I also like to heavily mulch the roots of some of the less hardy plants I grow, so shredded leaves (which won't blow away) will be great for that too.

Because this is my first year shredding leaves (although we've mulched them with the mower for a few), I won't really know if the extra step was worth it until next year, but I have to think it is.