The Beauty of Leaf Mold

Instead of carting off your tree leaves to the landfill, or recycling them in a yard debris bin, why not improve your soil by making leaf mold?  Leaf mold is made from decayed tree leaves;  it’s easy to make, it’s free and it improves your soil!leaf mold bin

How Leaf mold helps:

  1. Adds trace minerals to the soil
  2. Reduces rainwater runoff, and evaporation
  3. Retains moisture. Leaf mold hold 50% of it’s own weight in water
  4. Loosens compacted soils
  5. Cools roots and foliage during hot weather
  6. Improves habitat for soil dwellers, such as earthworms & beneficial bacteria
  7. As mulch it helps control weeds
  8. Saves you money by using less fertilizer and less water

Methods:

Build a 3-4 foot tall wire-fence enclosure, fill it up with leaves, add water, cover with cardboard, mix occasionally if you want to, but it’s not necessary and in two years the leaves break down into a rich brown weed-free mulch.

To speed up the process:  Place your wire bin in a semi-shaded area, shred your leaves, add some nitrogen like grass clippings, coffee grounds, or a 1/2 cup of high nitrogen fertilizer, like urea, then cover leaves with a piece of cardboard.
Note: If you don’t own a leaf shredder, then make a pile of leaves and run over them with your lawnmower several times. You should have leaf mold in 9-12 months.

You can also make leaf mold using large plastic bags. Fill large bags half full with leaves, add two cups of coffee grounds, or a ¼ cup urea fertilizer.  Wet leaves thoroughly.  Tie the top,  poke holes in the sides for lots of air flow.  Stack bags in warm location, shake occasionally to mix. You could have leaf mold as soon as 2 months.

After leaves have decomposed, incorporate your leaf mold directly into the garden soil, and/or mulch around your plants. You can also mix it with potting soil to use in container gardens.

Note: Do not use these Walnut, Eucalyptus, or Camphor Laurel leaves for leaf mold. They contain growth-inhibitors, and are toxic to other plants.

Oak leaves take longer to break down, so it’s best to shred them.

Composting guide:  http://compostguide.com/using-leaves-for-composting/

Step-by-Step Guide to Making Leaf Mold : http://making-mulch-from-leaves

Article by : Carlotta Lucas

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November 11th: Garden Chores

  • Garlic:  Weather permitting, you still have a week, or two, to plant garlic.
  • Mulch around berry plants.
  • Drain watering systems.
  • Disconnect hoses from hose bibs to prevent hose bib ends from freezing.
  • Insulate outside faucets, if they are not frost-proof hose bibs.
  • Drain and store portable sprinklers, hose-end timers and hose-end sprayers.
  • Rake and destroy fruit tree leaves and fallen fruit to prevent the spread of disease.
  • Spray dormant oil on fruit tress to control overwintering insects and fungus.
  • Spray lime-sulfur of grapes, anytime from now to February.
  •  It’s a good time to plant new trees, fruit trees and blueberries.
  • Prune raspberries to 1 foot above wire, attach canes to wires.
  • Harvest fall crops.
  • Clean tools.

Gardening Tips: Soil Conservation

This is the time of year when those giant paper bags full of fallen leaves start appearing on sidewalks around the country. This is also the time of year I drive around my neighborhood picking up those bags of leaves in my truck and spreading them throughout my garden beds.

The practice of removing our yard waste to landfills is enormously unsustainable:

  • We spend endless hours raking, blowing, and bagging the leaves that fall every year.
  • The use of leaf blowers is a source of noise pollution and air pollution, and uses large amounts of non-renewable fossil fuel.
  • These huge piles are hauled away by truck, using more gasoline and causing more air pollution.
  • Often this organic yard material is dumped into landfills, which destroys wildlife habitat.
  • Then we have mulch trucked in to replace the benefits of the leaves we just hauled away.
  • And we replace the nutrients that were freely available from the decomposition of those leaves with synthetic fertilizers, which are another petroleum product.

This cycle cannot be sustained without causing increasing damage to our environment. It is much more sustainable to manage this yard waste on our own properties.

Fortunately, this is very easy to do and also returns nutrients to the soil, provides habitat for many organisms, and ensures healthy plants.

I pile up these leaves in every one of my flower beds, sometimes it is more than two feet deep. In the spring I take a hand rake and loosen the leaves around my emerging plants, which hide the leaves during the growing season. By the time the next leaves fall, the old leaves have completely decomposed and the soil is ready for a new blanket.

Why do I do this?

  • There is a cycle of life contained in the leaf litter and we destroy many forms of wildlife every time we remove these leaves.
  • Many butterflies find shelter in the leaf litter, either in egg, pupal, or adult form, to safely wait out the winter and emerge in the spring.
  • Leaf litter provides food and shelter to an amazing variety of invertebrates who break down the leaves, which feeds the soil and other wildlife.
  • Healthy plants are dependent on healthy soil.
  • The deeper the leaf litter, the more spiders are supported. Spiders are an essential element in keeping pest insects in balance.
  • Leaf litter is also home to ladybugs, salamanders, toads, and other predators of pest insects. It is no wonder that pests like aphids thrive when we continue to destroy the habitat of the predators that would keep them under control.
  • Every spring these leaves are covered with birds who pick through the leaves in search of a tasty meal.
  • Trucked in mulch is not necessary when the leaves are left to cover the soil because the leaf litter acts as a natural blanket of mulch, controlling soil moisture and temperature.

I know there are many gardeners who cannot bear the thought of even one leaf creating a “mess” in their pristine garden beds. But it’s easy to tuck the leaves under your shrubs or in a back corner where they can work their magic and leave your sense of tidyness intact.

Or the leaves can be composted and then spread over your soil so at least the natural nutrients can be returned to the soil.

The benefits to your local wildlife far outweigh any need for neatness.

Keeping Mosquitoes at Bay!

According to a study in Japan, mosquitoes are attracted to people with blood type “0” mosquitoe2more than any other blood types. They also discovered mosquitoes identify blood types though skin secretions before they pierce the skin. No matter what blood type you are, mosquitoes are a nuisance to everyone this time of year.  Below are a few suggestions which may help you keep mosquitoes at bay.

Eliminate standing water throughout your property! Look for standing water in strange places like a hole in a tree, clogged gutters, empty pots & saucers, wheelbarrows,  gardening buckets,  tarps covering lawn furniture & mowers,  plastic bags,  old tires, discarded bottle tops,  low places in your yard where water can pool.

Feverfew

Feverfew

Plant Repellents: These plants reportedly repel mosquitoes: Citronella, Lavender, Feverfew, Catnip, Rosemary, and Pennyroyal Mint. So, plant them in containers on your deck & patio and throughout your flowerbeds.

Pennyroyal

Pennyroyal

Essential Oils: Apply a combo of these essential oils to your skin: Lavender, Tree Tea oil, Citronella, Rosemary, Lemongrass, Clove, Peppermint, Rose Geranium, and Pennyroyal Mint.

Tip: Try tossing some Rosemary stems, or Lavender on your grill while barbecuing, it not only flavors your food, but it could keep away mosquitoes, too.

Mosquito Dunks: Dunks are bacterial insecticide, which kills mosquitoes, but is not harmful to birds, or other wildlife. Put them in pot saucers, fountains, and birdbaths to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in them.

Predators: Conserve healthy habitats for natural predators like bats, dragonflies, spiders and fish. Place a Bat house in your yard and…leave those spiders alone!  Mosquitoes are Arachnids’ favorite food; they eat hundreds every night like Bats.

Birdbaths: To prevent mosquitoes from breeding in your birdbath, change the water regularly, and/or buy an agitator to keep the water moving. You can put Mosquito Dunks in birdbaths, too; it is not harmful to birds

Make a Trap: Fill a small container with water, add soda pop or fruit juice, then some drops of liquid soap. This will trap fruit flies, too

Use Fans: Mosquitoes are weak flyers! Place a fan in your outside sitting area to blow mosquitoes away.

Cover up! Wearing lightweight long sleeves, pants, and shoes makes it harder for mosquitoes to bite you.  Also choose light colored clothes, like whites, pastels, and tans, because mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors.

Good Luck! ~Carlotta Lucas