Instead of raking leaves in the fall – recycle
BY LINDA SCHREIBER
There is so much more to leaves than just a pretty face or laborious fall work.
It’s a big, big job to rake, bag and take the leaves to the curb – maybe more than once. Those leaves are gold to the garden. Leaves are a great soil conditioner and can increase organic matter in the soil. Instead of hauling them off as waste, recycling your leaves cab benefit your personal environment. Leaves provide beneficial bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms that benefit plant growth. Leaves, as they decompose, become organic matter that improves your garden soil. Instead of raking, leaves can be used as mulch for the garden, lawn and they are a valuable addition to your compost.
Before you recycle in the garden – separate and dispose of any diseased leaves. You can start breaking down the leaves by mowing, using a leaf shredder or mulcher. Breaking the leaves into smaller pieces leads to faster decomposition and improves air circulation.
Decomposition depends on leave size, species and moisture. Brown leaves break down faster if they are shredded. Applying un-shredded leaves as mulch can lead to matting and suffocating anything underneath – matted leaves in a vegetable or annual garden bed can help smother winter annual weeds and in the spring they can be incorporated into the soil.
Store chopped leaves in garbage bags with holes in the bottom and sides of the bag allows the leaves to break down naturally as they will have direct contact with the earth where microbes are present to speed up the decomposition or creating leaf mold or partially decomposed leaves. The leaf mold can be used as mulch or saved as a carbon source to your compost pile in the summer when readily available “brown” materials isn’t available. Brown and dry materials are high in carbon to help balance the “green” or wet nitrogen-rich materials in a compost pile.