Archive for November 22nd, 2016

LEAF IT BE

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As the weather cools, we see the trees turn beautiful shades of orange, red and yellow signaling autumn. These colorful falling leaves also remind us of our chore of cleaning their litter off our sidewalks, lawn and properties. As I walk my dogs through the neighborhood and parks, scuffling through and crunching the carpet of leaves, I notice many homes with piles of leaves on the street waiting for the city to haul them away. My first thought is, I should come back and steal these however unpractical that is, then I realize they must not know what a gold mine they are tossing out as a nuisance.

As an avid gardener, I’ve experimented with many soil amendments throughout the years from compost, to worm casings, to stinky fish emulsions (yuck), synthetic fertilizers, wood chips…and absolutely nothing works as well to make my plants thrive and my clay soil soften better than leaf mold. What is leaf mold? Well, when you suck the leaves through your blower/vac or even rake them, put them in a black yard waste bag (must be black to stay warm and dark) loosely tied and set them aside somewhere outside. By spring the bag will be full of partially decomposed leaves covered in white mold. Spread this around your trees and plants or under your mulch as you would compost and voila! This same process also happens when you leave the leaves under the trees or shrubs they came from or if you spread them as mulch now, but the process just takes a little longer. You should always leave a few inches of leaves under the trees and plants where they came from as that is what feeds them, keeps them healthy, drought tolerant, prevents disease (never pile mulch around the trunk) and keeps them out of the landfill. Blowing all the leaves out from under your tree leaving hardened clay soil robs it of nutrients.

Leaves are great for healthy lawns too. If you have a light sprinkling of leaves on your lawn, don’t bother raking or blowing them off. Take the bag off your mower, mow right over them and leave them in place. Don’t worry about the messy look of leaf pieces, as they won’t last long. Within a couple of days and watering the soil organisms will have worked them in to your soil (they’re fast!) and your lawn will have had an organic nutrient rich treat. So next time your mow and blow guys skin your property and toss out natures free compost, tell them to black bag it for you instead. Your gardens will thank you!