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Confessions of a Leaf Thief

It’s no secret that the style of gardening practiced by 20 Minute Jan and myself is highly mulch intensive. One of the drawbacks of this approach to gardening is that we’re nearly always on the prowl for mulch. This Spring for instance, we responded to an ecycle list posting for someone who was trying to get rid of 7 bales of straw. When we arrived we discovered that the straw was fully saturated with thawed snow water which made each bale weigh over 10,000 pounds each. At least that was our estimate. Still, we took every one!
A more conventional task for us is to gather autumn leaves. We live on a tree-lined street populated with mostly maples. After we’ve raked our lawn and the lawns of our immediate neighbors, our minds turn to larceny. Leaf Thievery, to my knowledge, is not on the official books as a prosecutable crime though it’s best to get the process over and done with to avoid much commentary.
The most important tool in Leaf Thievery is a tarp. For the first decade or so of my career as a mulch napper, I dutifully crammed my loot into plastic trash cans. These were heavy and not entirely easy to work with. Also, the sheer amount of leaves that can be stolen via trash can pales in comparison to what can be accumulated with a tarp.
The tarp is used like a tortilla on an immense leaf burrito. Rake the leaves into a pile. Lay out the tarp beside the pile and then whisk the leaves onto the tarp. If it’s not windy, I find it’s best to toss them at a slight upward angle and to fill the tarp in the center.
Stealing leaves can be done, I suppose, by one perpetrator acting alone, although an accomplice makes it much easier. The co-conspirator can grab one end of the leaf burrito so it doesn’t need to be dragged along. This technique also keeps more of your precious booty inside the tarp so you don’t waste any of the leafy goodness you worked so hard to obtain.
One side effect of leaf thievery is that you will certainly cement your reputation as the neighborhood eccentrics. The first time you are caught in the act, you’ll likely have to explain yourself. After that, it’s clear sailing into leaf heaven as your efforts are greeted by indulgent smiles from your neighbors. You might even find some will offer their leaves to you, but we find the stolen leaves are just as sweet.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. Winter does the Mash — Our Twenty Minute Kitchen Garden linked to this post on March 6, 2009

    […] as well as helping ourselves to the leaves raked into the street by unsuspecting neighbors (see Confessions of a Leaf Thief for more details). The result was a thick colorful blanket covering the garden beds. The weather […]