The Glengarry News - Glengarry Supplement

All about leaves

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Leaves just keep on giving. The ways people deal with dead leaves are as varied as the fall foliage.

Raking, burning, mulching, shredding are the most common ways homeowners handle the fallout from trees.

As everyone knows, composting leaves is great for your compost pile and your garden.

By tapping into the nutrients contained in leaves, you are engaging in one of the simplest and oldest forms of recycling.

But composting requires some elbow grease.

It takes time and the proper conditions for a pile of leaves to be converted into a soil additive. If you simply toss them into a compost bin, little will happen during the long, cold winter.

Shred those leaves with a lawn mower. If left alone, leaves tend to mat, blocking out water and air.

Leaves take a year or two to break down.

Aerating the pile accelerate­s the process.

While this is almost impossible to do during winter, turn the pile over occasional­ly.

The goal is to add air for the aerobic microbes that cause the pile to decompose.

Other materials, such as grass clippings and kitchen waste, or nitrogen fertilizer can be mixed in.

Not all leaves are created equal.

The good leaves are ash, cherry, elm, linden, maple, poplar and willow. They break down in about a year.

The bad leaves include beech, birch, hornbeam, oak, and sweet chestnut.

They need two or more years usually to break down.

Avoid the leaves of black walnut and butternut trees. These plants have natural herbicides that prevent seed from germinatin­g.

The Leaf Mold

Many experience­d composters do not mix their leaves into their composts. They prefer using them to create leaf mold.

It's simple to make. Shred your leaves with a shredded or your lawn mower. This speeds up the amount of time needed to make leaf mold. Collect them together in either a pile, a wire cage, a compost bin or in big plastic bags. Add water if dry and wait. Leaf mold is a high-end mulch.

Why they are so good

Leaves are packed with trace minerals that trees draw up from deep in the soil. When added to your garden, leaves feed earthworms and beneficial microbes. They lighten heavy soils and help sandy soils retain moisture. They make an attractive mulch in the flower garden. They're a fabulous source of carbon to balance the nitrogen in your compost pile. And they insulate tender plants from cold.

A six-inch blanket of leaves protects tender plants from winter wind and cold. Cover coldhardy vegetables -- such as carrots, kale, leeks and beets. You will be able to harvest them all winter, if you can find them.

If you add shredded leaves right to the soil, add some slowreleas­e nitrogen fertilizer­s to help the leaves decompose and to ensure that soil microbes don't use all of the available nitrogen.

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 ??  ?? Many gardeners save leaves to cover asparagus beds.
Many gardeners save leaves to cover asparagus beds.

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