Many gardeners view the piles of dropped autumn leaves as a nuisance. Perhaps this is due to the labor involved raking them up or it might be simple ennui as the season changes and cold weather makes its approach. Either way, dead leaves should actually be looked upon as a boon. Leaf litter mulch in gardens has numerous attributes and mulching with leaves is an inexpensive and renewable way to achieve garden gold. Read on for some interesting leaf mulch info to get you composting that spent foliage and cleaning up the yard.
Leaf Mulch Info
The avid gardener spends quality time amending his or her soil and getting ready for the growing season. Some of us make our own compost, purchase manures or even buy soil additives. The cheaper solution is to use what nature gives you for free. Using leaf litter for mulch enriches the soil and perpetuates the cycle of life by renewing plants.
The benefits of leaf litter mulch are abundant. A layer of leaves improves soil consistency, aids in moisture retention, reduces weeds, adds nutrients over time and keeps soil temperatures more consistent. They also can help reduce soil erosion in certain instances.
Tips on Mulching with Leaves
The best way to use leaves is to shred them. You can do this in a number of ways but it is best to let them dry first. Once dry, use a lawn mower to chop them into little pieces. Dried leaves as mulch break down more quickly and shred easily. You can also use leaves after the season that have been moist and developed into leaf mold. These are partially decomposed and can be worked into the soil.
Using leaf litter for mulch is an easy way to recycle the debris in your yard. To use the dried leaves as mulch, spread them at a rate of 3 to 4 inches around trees and shrubs and 2 to 3 inches over perennial beds. You can use them to insulate rose bushes in November; just pull them away before the bushes start spring growth.
Work leaf litter into vegetable beds to increase porosity and add valuable nutrients. The smaller the leaves are shredded, the quicker they will break down and the less likely they will mat and mold.
Composting with Leaves
Using leaf litter as mulch has many benefits, but you can also simply compost the dead foliage. As in mulching, it’s best to cut them up to fine pieces for quicker composting. You can use the three-bin system, a composter or simply a pile of leaves.
Keep the leaves moderately moist and turn the pile at least weekly. For a balanced compost, mix in some grass clippings to add nitrogen. The proper ratio of nitrogen to carbon is 25 to 30 carbon (leaves) to 1 part nitrogen (grass).
Keeping the pile warm, moist and aerated will guarantee juicy soil in the future and the fine shreds break down quickly for fast compost that will benefit the whole garden.