Whether you bag your leaves or gather them into piles, raking is an important job that keeps your yard tidy and your lawn healthy. But don’t stop there! Those fallen leaves can provide two useful materials for your garden, leaf mulch and leaf mold, for FREE!
Leaves make great mulch and winter ground cover for gardens and around shrubs and trees. This will help insulate plants and protect them from winter freeze damage.
Since large leaves tend to compact down when they get wet, it is important to shred your leaves first. An easy way to do this is to run over them with a lawn mower a few times. A mower with a clipping bag is great for this and will save time. Another way is to put your leaves in a garbage can and use a weed whacker to chop the leaves into pieces. (Please wear safety goggles when you do this).
Leaf mold (sometimes you see it also spelled as leaf mould) is simply decomposed leaves. This material is great for improving soil structure and improving the water-holding capacity of soil. A University of Connecticut study found that soil amended with leaf mold increased its water-holding capacity by almost 50 percent.
Leaf mold is very easy to make: Just put fallen leaves into a bin or wire enclosure and turn them every month or so. It does take a bit of patience as it may take six to twelve months for the leaf mold to be ready for your garden. Shredding will speed things up a bit as it helps the leaves to decompose more efficiently.
Once ready, place the leaf mold around (but not touching) the crowns of your plants to help them maintain moisture during summer. Or dig some of it into your soil to make it less dense and help roots penetrate and take up nutrients more easily.
A great time to mulch your garden is after the first few frosts. Clear your planting beds of any dead vegetation and remaining weeds, then apply about 2 inches of your leaf mulch.
In the spring, you can till the leaves into your garden.
No matter how you recycle your leaves, they’re sure to be a great (and free) resource for your garden.
By Sabine Ehlers, CMG
As temperatures fall, we get to enjoy the most spectacular fall colors as trees and shrubs begin to turn their leaves. This of course also means that those of us with tree-filled yards will soon be trading in the lawn mower for the rake.
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