by Charlene Burgi
Don’t you just love the brisk morning air? The dog days of summer are behind us. Nature is providing us with a spectacular show only seen in autumn. Deciduous shrubs and trees show off their true colors before dropping their leaves. Some see this as another dreaded chore of raking and filling up the green cans to be hauled away. But I see this time as an opportunity for free mulch!
Did I say free mulch with fallen leaves? Yes, it is a wonderful way to repurpose what we have at hand. There are a few ways to approach this task. The easiest way is to form a cylinder of old 2×4 wire and place the fallen leaves inside to eventually make leaf mold. Lucky is the person with oak leaves that can look forward to using oak leaf mold in their acid-loving plant garden.
Here is another method to employ: Shred your leaves. If you don’t have a shredder, use your lawn mower to shred the leaves into little pieces and place the product around your plants. These little pieces will allow rain to penetrate into the soil rather than sheet off as with large leaves. You might also want to add a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer to replace the nitrogen used by soil microbes during the leaf breakdown period.
The denuded veggie garden would also benefit from some of these shredded leaves. Mix in some compost with the leaves and slightly turn this mixture into the soil. You can expect amazing results in a few months when preparing your spring garden.
Asparagus beds and other perennial vegetable beds will benefit from using 3 to 4 inches of shredded leaves. Garlic, roses and other tender winter plants will also thank you for the added shredded leaf mulch.
What you don’t use can be stored in black plastic garbage bags for continued top dressing at a later date.
As for me, I need to drive out to Ash Creek and collect leaves that have fallen in the forest. The planted yellowwood trees, cercis, maples and fruit trees on the property are still too little to provide enough material to use for mulching the garden areas. For the time being, I resort to using their fallen leaves as decorations for the house. And the abundant conifers surrounding the property would take my lifetime to break down!
That brings me to a word of warning. Do not add shredded leaves from walnuts, camphor, eucalyptus or bay trees directly to the soil. They contain oils that can be harmful to your plants. Compost these leaves first before using in the garden.
Have a great weekend and a very happy upcoming Thanksgiving!