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Fallen leaves – Part 2

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Raking fallen leaves and garden debris

Fallen leaves rustle underfoot. They smell good. The wind sometimes whip them up into a frenzy of dancing shapes. While a few leaves wont cause any problems, slippery wet leaves can be a musance, and can be hazardous blocking drains and gutters causing real headache to some home-owners.

But did you know you could actually put your leaves to good use?
What to do with fallen leaves
Did you know that fallen leaves could be considered free organic fertilizer right in your garden. Though there is labour involved, you need to rake or blow them up or they’ll smother your lawn and create other issues.

You have all these free nutrients in an organic form that lay on the lawn and other parts of the garden and by bagging them up and using them for mulch or compost you can recycle them back into your landscape in a form that plants are designed to take: naturally decomposing organic matter.

Expert horticulturalists says nutrients in leaves that fall from a deciduous tree is equivalent to about three-fourth of all the nutrient that the tree took up during the year.

Reusing these wastes creates a product that can be used to help improve water quality. So rather than burn them causing environmental hazard or packed for waste collection away to ‘landfill you are better hanging onto your leaves. Here are a few ways you can use them on your property.

Collecting leaves
You can gather leaves that accumulate on small plants by hand to prevent damage. Do this everyday or two so plants aren’t killed by fungal disease or lack of light. A rubber rake is the very best tool for gathering leaves from lawns, paths and pavings, but a spring- tined lawn rake or even an ordinary garden rake can be used. If you like power tools, use a leaf blower to huff leaves into heaps. Clear fallen leaves once a week. Use large plastic grabbers [like extended hands with long fingers] make it easy to lift pile of leaves all in one go into a barrow, sack or tarpaulin.

Leaf Mould
If you have only a few leaves, mix them with other ingredients and add to your compost heap.
For larger quantities its best to compost fallen leaves separately, must deciduous leaves take a year to become a good leaf mould,

Sack Method
One of the simplest techniques to make leaf mould is to pack leaves into large perforated black bin liners as you collect them. If they are dry, dampen them with a hose first. Tie the necks of the bag, stab them with a fork to let in air and stack them somewhere out of the way while they rot down.

Using Leaf Mould.
Leaf mould is also called black gold or gardeners’ gold.
Unique properties make it invaluable for some gardening uses. It is a good source of fiber that helps soil retain moisture and improve drainage, making it especially good as soil improver where you want to grow choice plants like dwarf bulbs, roses and alpine plants. It is also a favorite ingredient [with loam and grit] for making specialist compost mixed for growing alpines in containers. You can use leaf mould to enrich soil in raised beds, rock features, the vegetable beds, in pots or other containers. It’s advisable to pass leaf mould through a course riddle or large garden sieve to remove twigs and coarse or undecomposed materials first.

Help your Lawn
A light covering of leaves can be moved with a mulching mower or cut up with a few passes of a lawn mower. Set your rotary lawnmower on its highest cutting height and mower over them.
This will shred the leaves into small pieces. The shredded leaves fall in between the blades of grass enabling them to breakdown into the soil easily. This makes great soil conditioner and helps the soil to retain moisture and remain healthy throughout the year.

Make Compost
Fallen leaves are a great source of brown material for the compost bin. For people who have a compost bin, leaves and other yard waste can be added to create an organic product that feed trees and plants. By ensuring they are moist but not wet, mixed with green materials and turned once a month to allow oxygen to circulate, they will eventually breakdown into thick black compost in a period of six months to one year.

Mulch
If you have a large number of fallen leaves, then using them as mulch is a great alternative to throwing them away. Use a mower with a bag as your leaf gathering device to shred and collect leaves.

Once you have shredded the leaves, spread the chopped leaves around your plants as mulch in flower beds, vegetables beds, shrub and trees, two or three inches thick avoiding the stems. Leaves will slowly decompose and release their nutrient over time. Leaf mulch has a number of other benefits, not only does it breakdown into a great soil conditioner, but who acts as insulation for plants and vegetables, and protects useful animals like worms from prey, it acts as useful; weed barrier helping to stop them from growing. They also form a cover that protects the soil against erosion crusting from rainfall and irrigation.

Soil Improvement
You can collect leaves and rototill them directly into garden beds to improve aeration, drainage and water capacity.
Most people don’t have gardens big enough for this technique.

However, there is another strategy; mix several inches of leaves into the soil as deep as you can and then allow them to decompose before the next planting season.

Blanket Over Soil
If the leaves are so abundant they would smother the lawn, go ahead and rake them but not into piles for burning. Instead rake them beneath your shrubs. A blanket of leaves keeps the soil from washing away and exposing delicate feeder roots. That blanket of leaves also keeps the soil warmer in cold temperatures and cooler in hot weather. The result your shrub will grow and look better.

Secondly if you are not growing anything in an area of your garden, you can create a blanket of leaves to prevent weeds from coming up to protect the soil.

You don’t necessarily have to prepare the leaves for this, but it is usually best to mower them so smaller leaf pieces are less likely to blow around. When ready for planting, remove the leaf blanket with a rake and then put it back around the plants as mulch.

This is a day and time when people are conscious of…… “Reducing, Reusing and Recycling” and this is one of the ways of accomplishing that. It makes horticultural sense, it’s not like you are doing something to save the planet that is hurting your plants. You are doing the best thing for your plants and at the same time you are not filling up landfill space.


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