By now many of you have colorful leaves gracing your lawns. And although they’re beautiful in color, not to mention tons of fun to jump in, after the thrill is gone, you’re left with the dreaded task of raking and bagging.
Did you know your garden can benefit from these beauties — in a big way?
Improve Your Soil — Mix shredded leaves right into your garden. Next spring, your soil will have an overabundance of earthworms and other beneficial organisms.
Insulate Tender Plants for Winter — A 6-inch blanket of leaves protects tender plants from winter wind and cold. Cover cold-hardy vegetables such as carrots, kale, leeks and beets, and you’ll be able to harvest them all winter long.
Give Your Compost Pile a Boost — Carbon-rich leaves balance high-nitrogen compost ingredients such as fresh grass clippings.
Make “Leaf Mold” — Simply rake the leaves into a big pile. If possible, shred them, they will decompose faster. If not, you can still make leaf mold without shredding. After one to three years, fungus will have broken the leaves down to a special compost that smells like a walk through the woods. Leaf mold is high in calcium and magnesium and retains three to five times its weight in water—that’s comparable to peat moss.
Be careful of some types of leaves. Walnut, camphor laurel, and eucalyptus leaves contain substances that inhibit plant growth. It’s best to compost these leaves BEFORE using them in your garden.
Be sure to chop or shred whichever leaves you choose before using them as mulch. Whole leaves can form a barrier that water can’t penetrate.
If you add shredded leaves right to your soil, add some slow-release nitrogen fertilizers to help the leaves decompose and to ensure that soil microbes don’t use all of the available nitrogen.
Now remember — use your leaves only after you’re done jumping into a few mounds. hehee!
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