Notes from the Field

“Leave” Them Be: Mulch with Fall Leaves

Anyone with a green thumb knows that mulching your beds is one of the best ways to ensure a healthy garden. An eco-friendly (and dollar-savvy) way to do so is to mulch with autumn leaves such as oak and maple.

First, rake up fallen leaves, making sure they are free of pests and disease. Then, if possible, run over them with a lawn mower before adding them to your garden in a 2- to 3-inch layer. This helps speed up decomposition and lets water and organic matter reach the soil below the mulch.

If you can’t shred your leaves first, just spread them around (not on top of) the perennials in your garden. They will break down over time, gradually delivering vital nutrients to your soil.

End-of-Season Garden To-Do’s

•   Release your inner artist. Create a rough sketch of your garden beds and landscape before plants go dormant. You can then refer to the drawing months later when planning next year’s garden. At a glance, it’ll remind you of plants that you want to replace and available open space.

•   Look for end-of-season sales. Browse the clearance aisle at your local garden center and stock up on supplies such as garden tools and containers.

•   Take care of your containers. Clean and neatly store containers so they’re ready for next season.

•   Forgo the fertilizer. It’s time for plants to slow their growth before winter sets in, so don’t encourage them with fertilizers.

•   Let’s split! Fall is a good time to divide and transplant any overgrown spring- or early summer-blooming perennials. Just be sure to prepare the new planting area first.

Q: What Is “Green Manure”?

A: Usually planted in fall, fast-growing green manure crops provide protection against soil erosion over the winter months and add organic matter that improves fertility.

“Green manure crops, with their deep root systems, bring up buried trace elements and hold them in their structure, then release them after the mature plants are tilled under and begin to decompose,” explains vegetable expert Glen O. Seibert (“The GreenMan”). “Legumes are often selected as cover crops because of their ability to fix nitrogen from the air and return it to the soil.”

Casting 101

•   Use a spin cast outfit because it is the easiest to learn.

•   Set up your line with weight or a practice plug.

•   Face the target area with your body turned at a slight angle, about a quarter turn.

•   Aim the rod tip toward the target, about level with your eyes.

•   Press and hold down the reel’s release button.

•  Swiftly and smoothly, bend your arm at the elbow,raising your hand with the rod until it almost reaches eye level.

•  When the rod is almost straight up and down, move your forearm forward with a slight wrist movement.

•  Gently sweep the rod forward, causing the rod to bend with the motion.

•  As the rod moves in front of you, reaching eye level, about the 10 o’clock position, release your thumb from the button. The bend in the rod casts the bobber and bait out.

You have just made a cast!

Fried Fish in Five Steps

Fried Fish<br />Illustrated by Niff Nicholls
Fried Fish
Illustrated by Niff Nicholls

1. Fillet fish, picking out bones and removing skin.

2. Rinse fillets with cool water, then pat dry with paper towel.Season with salt and pepper and dip into cornmeal or flour-based batter.

3. Season with salt and pepper and clip into cornmeal or flour-based batter.

4. Drop into smoking hot oil (about 385 F) and cook until golden. Peanut, safflower, corn, and vegetable oils are all suitable choices.

5. Remove and drain on paper towels. Season with salt if desired.