|I find this scene in my yard quite beautiful.|
Several years ago I called an experienced arborist to a property I was working on. I showed him a tree that just did not look right. I had planned to enlarge the mulched ring around the tree and possibly give the tree some organic fertilizer and he gave me some simple, wise advice. “Go into the woods over there behind the property and scrape up some old leaves from the ground. Dump a wheelbarrow or so of this leaf mold around the tree, then put the mulch on top.” I did exactly as he said and realized leaves are nature’s mulch. Leaves provide everything the tree needs. No one ever fertilizes a forest. Leaves that are breaking down (known as “leaf mold”) are full of microscopic life including beneficial bacteria and fungi that will enrich the soil and nourish the tree. And so began a whole new way of thinking about leaves for me. Ever since, I use fall leaves everywhere in my yard and gardens.
Here are several ways I use leaves on my property and I hope to encourage you to do too.
- I use leaves to topdress vegetable beds in late fall after a few hard frosts. I especially topdress my garlic crop which I plant in late fall. Leaves keep the beds mulched-for free. This regulates soil temperature swings and supresses any winter weeds. In spring, I turn whatever leaves are still there into the soil with a pitchfork. The worms love this (it is what they eat) and it attracts more of them to my beds. More worms equals more earthworm castings which is the best organic soil conditioner there is!
- I use leaves to add organic matter directly to the lawn. Use a mulching mower and mow them over the lawn in place-Chopped leaves break down very quickly. The lawn can always use more organic matter. Organic matter means better water retention and more soil microbes. Soil microbes break down thatch naturally and fertilize the soil. This makes a happier, greener lawn for you.
- For shade gardens, do not rake the leaves at all. It is that simple. If you have been raking your leaves out of a shade garden or from under a tree, just leave them this year and watch the magic happen. See how much happier your trees and shade gardens will be. Toads will appreciate this too. They burrow into the leaf layer for the winter. In spring and summer, they eat all the slugs and bugs that bother your shade plantings.
|This toad is happy amongst the leaves in early spring that were left alone in a shade garden the fall before. He needs them for his winter habitat to keep him warm!|