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Using an Electric Leaf Shredder

"I Can Shred Almost Anything in It"

Rene Sansom-Blair
"The leaf shredder is amazing. I can shred almost anything in it. I shred vegetable debris, tomato stalks, weeds, pine needles and maple leaves."

Living on the banks of Clark's Fork River in Thompson Falls, Mont., Rene Sansom-Blair is blessed with frequent views of a variety of wildlife. It's not uncommon to see osprey, heron, deer, bear and elk near her house. Even though Rene loves wildlife, she also loves to garden. Her 100-by-150-foot yard gets plenty of sun, but until recently, Rene has been gardening next door. For more than 10 years Rene helped an elderly neighbor, Grandma Tyne, garden at her home. Grandma Tyne taught Rene a lot about gardening and life. Rene slowly took over more and more of the garden work as Grandma aged. When she died and new owners moved into her house, Rene decided to focus her energy on her own land.

The first order of business was to build the soil. Rene took young branch trimmings from her chokecherry trees and wove them into the walls for a compost pile. She throws everything into the pile. "I compost kitchen scraps, grass clippings, leaves, weeds--even shredded paper and junk mail," she says. "I've even been known to volunteer and rake the leaves under my neighbor's maple trees to add to my pile," she exclaims.

In summer, Rene can create finished compost in two months. The key to success is her Deluxe Electric Leaf Shredder. "The leaf shredder is amazing. I can shred almost anything in it. I shred vegetable debris, tomato stalks, weeds, pine needles and maple leaves—even when they're wet—without clogging it," she says. "Plus, since it's electric, I don't have to struggle with a pull-cord starter. It's an absolutely wonderful shredder. I just wish they made it in my favorite color: yellow," she laughs.

Rene has become a compost-making machine. In fact, she's added so much compost to some beds that the vegetables are suffering. "My Chinese cabbage bolted early this year I think because the soil is too rich," she says. "I'm starting to mix sand and peat in my beds to tone down the richness of the compost," she says. Rene has a variety of flowers and vegetables growing around her yard. Tomatoes, squashes, sweet corn, hot and sweet peppers, fennel, raspberries, pineapple sage, nasturtiums, hollyhocks and cantaloupes grace her garden. She even has hardy kiwi vines growing on an arbor near her home.

Down by the river, Rene brought in 150 boulders and created a native grass area along the riverbank. "The state loves it because it prevents erosion along the river bank. I love it because it looks beautiful," she says.

Perhaps her most unusual garden is the canoe water garden. "We have an old Coleman fiberglass canoe. We're too near the Thompson Falls Dam to paddle on the river so I decided to make the canoe into a water garden," Rene says. She hauled it onto the deck, filled it with water and planted water lilies, cattails, and iris. She keeps the water clean by placing a Barley Ball in the canoe. The barley balls keep the algae at bay and the water clear so she can see the fish swimming around.

Although she doesn't have a lot of lawn, Rene has used some GSC products to keep it growing well. "The Lawn Aerator Sandals work great. They open up the lawn so air and water can get into the soil and I get some exercise too," she says. "I've also sprayed GSC Milky Spore on the lawn to kill the Japanese beetle grubs," says Rene.

Now that Rene has become an accomplished gardener, she likes to encourage others to garden. "My sister has a bad back, which has limited her ability to garden. I gave her a Garden Kneeler last year and she loves it. She's back gardening again," says Rene.

While the garden is Rene's home, it also is home to the occasional visitor that she's learned to live with. "Every fall I have a bear that moves in under my deck. He feeds on the dropped apples and pears from my neighbor's trees for two weeks then moves on. We have an understanding. I stay out of his way and he stays out of mine," smiles Rene.

It seems there's room for everyone in Rene's garden.

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