Got Leaves? Put 'Em to Work

| 10/20/2008 4:10:29 PM

Tags: composting, mulch, leaves, fall gardening, soil,

autumn leaves bp 
'Tis the season for harvesting leaves, the most abundant free source of organic matter available to most gardeners. Microorganisms in soil and compost transform leaves into bits of organic matter, which helps the soil retain nutrients and moisture.  By themselves, leaves contain small amounts of 16 plant nutrients.

You can stockpile leaves in a bin or pen to use later as compost or mulch, but you don't have to wait until leaves decompose to put them to work. With some shredding assistance from your lawn mower, you can give your leaves useful jobs right now.

1. Turn lawn into garden. Prepare sections of lawn you want to develop into garden beds by smothering them with leaves. First scalp the grass by mowing as close to the surface as possible. Then cover the space with several thicknesses of newspaper or cardboard, and cover the base layer with two inches (or more) or compost or manure. Top with 3 to 4 inches of shredded leaves. 

2. Winterize hardy vegetables. Use shredded leaves to limit winter injury to kale, leeks, carrots and other hardy vegetables. Surround the planting with a low fence or burlap enclosure and fill it with up to 12 inches of shredded leaves. Mulch garlic and perennial onions with up to 6 inches of shredded leaves mixed with the season's last grass clippings.

3. Bury them in a trench. Improve the drainage and organic matter content in garden beds by digging narrow trenches, filling them with shredded leaves, and then covering them up. By late spring, the leaves will be sufficiently decomposed to mix into the soil, or you can plant right into the enriched trenches.

4. Mulch-mow them into your grass. Research done at Michigan State University reveals that when rather thick layers of leaves (to 12 inches) are shredded with a mower and allowed to rot where they fall, the grass greens up faster in spring and grows better the following summer. Just don't expect the leaves to disappear from view until the grass starts growing next year.

12/18/2014 8:57:29 AM

Just passing a tip along I came upon check how "active" your compost pile is, take a length of steel pipe (I use an old 1/2" steel water pipe 4' long) and stick it in your pile, all the way to the bottom. Pull the pipe out periodically and feel of the bare metal that was deep in your pile....if your pile is active, it will be noticeably warm. It's a good test method!

10/31/2014 11:25:07 AM

Jan Meyer...I don't have any ideas for instant chai, but the way I make it is not hard and doesn't take long. I buy the Tazo Chai tea bags (or you may prefer another brand) @ $3.49 for a box of 20. Just ONE Chai Latte at Starbucks is more than that, I think. Anyway, just measure out 1/2 cup water in pot, boil, then add 1/2 cup milk and the tea bag and let steep for 5-7 minutes or so. Pour into cup, add sugar, and it tastes just like a Starbucks Chai Latte at a fraction of the cost. I use skim milk and very little sugar so that it is not so rich as Starbucks'. You can also use honey if you like it.

10/31/2014 10:18:29 AM

I throw my leaves into the chicken pen. The hens love to scratch through them, looking for bugs and worms and other edibles. Eventually, they reduce the leaves to compost (I sprinkle with Coop-and-Compost) and then I just shovel it out and put it in the garden or flower pots. Looks and smells like potting soil. :)

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