Leaf Mulch…Nature’s Bargain!
It is no secret that I love fall. I also love a good bargain, and Mother Nature provides just that bargain every fall in the form of leaves that then become leaf mulch. Leaves turn amazing colors…reds, oranges, and yellows…and then they fall to the ground. That’s when the bargain hunting begins! Those leaves are THE BEST mulch material on the face of the earth and they are FREE! Why oh why would anyone rake, drag, or blow your leaves to the curb for the city to pick up? You might as well leave your paycheck there as well!
My poor little house came sans trees (well, virtually) so I am coveting my neighbors leaves as they slowly fall and start to pile up. I am planning to take those off their hands just as soon as the raking begins. I just imagine myself yelling across the street, “Hey, leaf those alone!” Ah, the puns are numerous!
Why should you love fallen leaves so much? Because leaves are the most abundant FREE organic material. People spend loads of money in the spring for something that Mother Nature just hands out in the fall. Leaves contain trace minerals that feed the soil, the earthworms, and beneficial microbes. Organic material breaks up and lightens heavy clay soil and helps all soils retain moisture. It’s all about soil building! Healthy soil creates a condition where the life of the soil is vitalized. Healthy soil grows healthy plants. Healthy plants have fewer problems because disease and pests attack weak plants. And it is all chemical free!
So what can you do with all those leaves? Make mulch! THE BEST mulch. How?
How to Make the BEST Mulch the Earth Has Ever Seen
- lawn mower or leaf blower
Let a layer of leaves accumulate on the lawn. In my case, I will be scattering leaves on the lawn poached from my neighbor’s curbside pile.
Make two or three passes over the leaves with a lawn mower to shred the leaves. Or you can suck up the leaves with a leaf blower. Most leaf blowers have a reverse cycle that will shred them as they are vacuumed up.
Rake up the shredded leaves into bags or piles. It is a good idea to allow some to stay on the lawn. The shredded leaves will decompose over the winter and provide nutrients to the soil.
And that’s it. It’s that simple. So why the heck isn’t everyone doing this I ask??? Why are our curbs full of leaves waiting for the city brigade to come and vacuum up every last leaf and haul them to the landfill? (At least my city’s landfill does grind it up and spit it back out to the public for use. See my post on municipal mulch.)
Now what should you do with all this organic goodness? You have several options:
You can use it right away in all of your beds. Place several inches of shredded leaves around your perennials, shrubs, and cold hardy vegetables. It is best not to pile the leaves right up next to the plant. Leave an inch or two of space between the crown of the plant and the leaf mulch. (click here for a short how-to video)
Leaf mulch is so, so good for the soil and it looks nice. It breaks down to feed the soil and in the meantime, it suppresses weeds and helps to maintain moisture.
Shredded leaves are an excellent addition to your compost pile. Chances are your compost pile is a wee bit unbalanced by fall having added so much green material and kitchen scraps throughout the spring and summer. (You do have a compost pile don’t you?) By turning leaves into the pile, you are re-balancing with brown material and the decomposing should commence in full force awarding you in the spring with that rich, black garden gold!
Bag up whole or shredded leaves to use in the spring (and the bargain continues!) as mulch or as a much needed brown addition to your compost pile. You can use any kind of container or bag, even garbage bags, to hoard your stash in the garage, shed, or under the eaves of your house out of the way. In the spring you will have all of the organic matter you need to kick start your gardens. You will be the envy of the neighborhood!
(One word of warning…not all leaves are good to shred and use as compost. Leaves such as black walnut, eucalyptus, and camphor laurel contain a chemical that may kill other plants.)
Every fall Mother Nature provides a bargain bin full of the best stuff on earth. Using leaves in your gardening practice is just one way of keeping a chemical-free garden without the cost! And did I mention that it is wildlife friendly? It provides winter cover for many beneficial insects. It’s a win-win!
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Now get out there and rake to your heart’s content. It’s FREE! UnbeLEAFable!!