Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Fall leaves are a true treasure for a gardener! Even though we rake up about 30 bags a year, I don't think I could ever have enough.. Not all leaves are created equal, however.. some, like oak leaves are very rot resistant and can take years to break down. Most of our trees are maples and birch, which make a very good leaf compost.
My next door neighbour also has a lot of trees, but she is another leaf lover and makes frequent (almost daily) stops whenever she spies piles of raked and bagged leaves at the curb awaiting pick up. This is a great way to get some leaves if you don't have too many trees on your own property, but I'd caution you to check that the leaf-owners didn't use any pesticides on their lawn or have a doggy that might have left some 'gifts' in those bags of leaves..
Here are a few of my favourite ways to use fall leaves:
1) Before you do anything else, grab a rake and make the biggest pile of leaves that you can. Take about 20 steps back from the pile and get ready to run.. now, jump into that pile as high as you can! Repeat as needed.
2) Now that you've scattered your leaf pile all over the lawn again, get out your mower and shred those leaves into small bits. Whole leaves take a lot longer to break down and can form a impenetrable layer on the lawn and the garden, so chop them up well! If you're not in a rush, you can skip the chopping and just make a big pile of leaves at the side of your garden. They'll break down into a lovely leaf mold in about 2 years, depending on the type of leaves. If you've chopped your leaves, gather them up and put a few bags beside your composter. You can use them to alternate layers of kitchen scraps during the winter.
3) Next, bag up a bunch of your shredded leaves in big black garbage bags. Add a shovelful of finished compost or garden soil (to inoculate the mix with beneficial microorganisms) and a sprinkle of water. Give the bag a good shake and poke holes throughout with a screwdriver. Toss the bags to the side of the garden and let nature take its course.. by early next summer, they'll be full of rotted leaf mold, a lovely soil amendment and a favourite food for worms.
4) Work several inches of those shredded leaves into your veggie garden beds right now! They will break down all winter, adding nutrients and organic matter. Plus, they attract worms..
5) Tuck a generous layer of shredded leaves around your perennials for winter insulation. I also save about 10 bags to use in the spring as a mulch around my veggie plants. A shredded leaf mulch will lock in soil moisture, suppress weeds and regulate soil temperatures.. Plus, they keep veggie beds looking nice and tidy and can help prevent soilborne diseases spread by splashing water. (Hello blight!)
I could go on (and on and on), but I think you get the idea.. Leaves, specifically shredded leaves are a wonderful source of organic matter, compost fodder and nutrients for the gardener. Don't bag them up and stick them on your curb. Use them to make free food for your plants!