Trees of all types fascinate me. The pin oak and silver maple tree on my parcel have been in existence since our slab home was built in 1952. Can you imagine the root system on these trees? Tree roots penetrate deep excavating minerals. Those minerals end up in the leaves. Trees lose their leaves in the Fall . Fungus takes over and turns leaves to leaf mould, a wonderful mulch with valuable minerals. So why are we hauling all of this to the curb? You have a garden to feed and protect from the elements!
The picture above is one of many garden spots benefiting from mulched leaves. Before adding the mulched leaves, I add aged horse manure. Make sure you pull all weeds before adding manure/compost and shredded leaves. No need to till, the leaves will break down fine. You may have mulch remaining for your Spring plantings.
I’itoi Onions planted in September is pictured below. This is a multiplier onion that over winters and will be harvested in late Spring/Early Summer. The shredded leaves will hold in moisture, protect the roots from harsh winter weather, experienced here in Zone 5b, and will break down and feed the plants. Yes, there are some carrots in this bed as well.
Don’t have trees and have a need for leaves? Right now is the time to be observant. Keep an eye out for lawn bags on the curb and rescue them from going to the landfill. I, personally, would ask before taking. Do you know of someone who absolutely hates the chore of raking up their leaves? Do it for them-payment in leaves!
Now shred your leaves into small pieces. The smaller the leaves the quicker they will decompose. I find running over a pile of leaves with a lawn mower is effective. What better way to run the gas out of your mower at the end of the season? You can also buy a leaf mulcher/wood chipper, they range from inexpensive to way expensive. If you have lots and lots of time on your hands, you can use your hands and crunch the leaves up.
Any leaves to avoid? In my area, Midwest Zone 5b, I avoid walnut leaves. Walnuts contain a chemical called juglone which can inhibit growth of plants like tomatoes. I do not have any walnut trees on the property but if I were to rake leaves up for someone or take my neighbor’s lawn waste, I’d be aware of what’s being picked up. That’s why it’s a good idea to ask before taking lawn waste, you’ll now exactly what you are getting. If you choose to use walnut, just throw them in their own pile away from your garden to compost. After a year or two the leaf mould should be safe to use in your garden.
Do a good deed for someone and your soil!