It’s fall and that means that people are putting out bags of leaves on curbs all over the place. What a colossal waste of an extraordinary resource, and a what a great opportunity for you to stock up and hoard this most excellent garden resource! In this episode, Dave and I talk about leaves in general, and about things to do with the leaves and the bags.
Don’t Rake Your Leaves!
First off, if you have leaves on your lawn, don’t rake them up – mow them in! Just because everyone rakes leaves doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Leaves are an excellent soil builder, and as longs as you don’t have too many, the mulching blade on your mower should convert them into an excellent soil builder for your lawn.
Isn’t it great that other people Rake Leaves?
Just because you don’t rake your leaves doesn’t mean that you can’t use other people’s leaves in your garden! Find good sources of leaves (they are not all created equally) and remember that address! Smaller leaves, or leaves that have already been run through a mower make the best mulch, so be choosy. If you can’t get small ones, then take them home and run your mower over them with the bag on. You can even use this technique to add things to the leaves – like grasses or seaweed – such that the lawnmower acts like a mulch combiner. Play around with different combinations and have fun.
Leaves as Compost
Leaves make a great compost, but they take a while to break down. To make a great compost, just add alternating layers of leaves and manure (even green manure) in the fall, and by next fall it will all have broken down into a great compost.
Leaves as Mulch
Leaves make a great mulch from a moisture retention and soil building point of view, but be careful, they can harbor slugs – so if you are worried about slugs, only use them in garden beds where you plan to grow things that slugs don’t usually bother (like tomatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic, etc.).
Leaf Bags to Kill Invasive Species
The leaf bags are made of a heavy brown paper that seems to take a number of years to break down. This makes them great for smothering out unwanted plants. Just put the bags down, and then cover with the leaves. Hopefully in a year or two, your invasive plants will be gone, and your soil will be nicely renewed from the mulch, and ready for planting with something that you actually want to grow!
Almost everything that goes into a tree comes out in its leaves, and when you consider how elaborate and deep the root systems of trees are, this should give you a sense of the incredible resource that leaves present to gardeners as a soil amendment or mulch. Considering that they cost nothing and are gathered up and bagged for free by strangers – the next time you see a bag of leaves on someone’s curb, pick them up and put them to use in your garden or compost pile. Remember, late fall is not a time to stop gardening, it’s a time to start working on next year’s garden, so put on a toque and some gloves and get out there!
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