28 Sep FALL LEAVES FOR YOUR GARDEN
It’s now that time of year where days are getting shorter and cooler, and the garden is starting to wane, showing its signs of wanting to be put to rest. For many gardeners, this is an enjoyable time as they look back and see what they have grown or even how they will continue to have fresh produce for the next few months. As gardeners, we should always be aware of the next crop that is going in. For us, we plant garlic in the fall. For others, the next crop may be the first crop in the spring, as soon as the soil can be worked. Either way, preparing the garden for winter correctly will save you time in the spring when it is time to plant.
Leaves are free and abundant, and they are one of the greatest resources available during the fall. Whether saving them over the winter to make leaf compost or applying them directly over the soil, leaves are very nutrient dense and beneficial for your garden. Tree roots go deep down into the earth, and all of those nutrients circulate through the tree and into the leaves, which enhances them and makes them exceedingly beneficial to your soil. We take the leaves from our property and neighbors’ properties (with their permission) and mulch them. We then apply about 2 feet of this leaf mulch over the top of the garden bed. Sometimes, due to time restraints, we do not mulch the leaves and just apply them whole.
For many gardeners, leaves aren’t the only thing they put over their beds before winter. Many will put their own homemade compost or purchased compost to top dress the beds. Top dressing is simply layering an inch or two of compost over the bed to help add nutrients to the existing soil over winter. The leaf mulch is then applied.
Some leaves to avoid adding to the garden would be black walnut, poison ivy, oak and sumac leaves. These are not generally good for the soil. Other leaves that could cause issues are oak leaves. They can be added to the compost, soil, etc., but they can take longer to break down than other leaves. Many people will choose to mulch them before mixing them in with the leaves for the garden. We mostly have maple leaves available for our garden. Maple trees are susceptible to maple tar spot, a fungus. However, that disease will not have any adverse effect on your soil or garden, which means they are safe to use in your composting and mulching efforts.
When putting leaves over the garden bed, we normally pile the leaves 2 to 3 feet high. These leaves break down quickly over winter and will leave you with a mulched garden in the spring. Leaves are a great, easy, and free resource to enhance your soil and aid in putting your garden to bed for the winter. They also make a terrific mulch option.