I had an ulterior motive when we selected trees for landscaping around our place. I laid down a strong argument that deciduous are much better than evergreens as they provide seasonal interest, and just think of how beautiful they'd be in the autumn. The colours will be spectacular, with all the gold's, oranges and reds. We would have the best backyard ever. It took a bit of convincing but I won. We now have Pin Oaks Quercus palustris, a Ginkgo biloba and some Acers that I have long since forgotten the name of.
To be completely honest, I wasn’t thinking of the seasonal beauty, although I have to admit it is rather lovely. I was thinking about the fallen leaves! I had read so much about how great they were for the veggie garden and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some of my very own.
They have so much to give to the garden. They make a fabulous mulch, which I guess is why most people don’t enjoy autumn leaves falling on their lawns as they need to sweep them up, or they will kill the grass underneath. Now I wouldn’t see this as a bothersome chore – I would rake them up willingly – every day if I had to. Although mowing over them with the lawn mower on the highest setting and the catcher on the back is supposed to be a great way to take care of them. I have yet to test this out. The other possibility is to go shopping and buy a leaf blower and corral them into a corner and scoop them up by the armful. That sounds like loads of fun for the whole family.
As a mulch it is easy to use – just sprinkle it about where you don’t want weeds to pop up, although this does have a bit of a draw back in that it can become a great hiding place for slugs and snails. But if you collect them with the lawn mower, then this is less of a problem as they have been chomped up a bit and provide less secret locations for slimy pests.
I could also make my own leaf mould. Now this is the most fabulous stuff. It isn’t as nutritious as compost but it is a wonderful soil conditioner. It can help the soil to retain moisture, and anything that can do this is more than welcome in my summer garden. It also helps with the soil structure and the earthworms love it and I’d do anything to keep my earthworms happy.
As a soil condition, you need to process them a little bit. It isn’t hard at all. Get a large black plastic garden bag, fill it full of leaves and add enough water to moisten the leaves, as they shouldn’t dry out. Then poke a few holes in the bag with your garden fork to allow air to get in. Tie off the top and put it in a corner of your garden where it won’t be a bit of an eyesore. Check it occasionally to make sure it is still damp and wait.
The other option, if you don’t have anywhere to hide them is to make a column out of chicken wire at least a metre high and a metre wide and fill it full of leaves. Make sure it is nice and damp, although you may need some kind of lid as you don’t want it to get completely soggy in the winter rains and before you know it you will have amazing leaf mould.
This should take 6 – 12 months to turn from freshly fallen leaves to a rich, incredible soil conditioner as the leaves are rich in carbon and so will take much longer than the nitrogenous material you ordinarily add to the compost. If you do this each autumn, then before long you can have a continuous supply of great leaf mould to add to your garden and improve your soil and as a result improve your veggies.
But sadly my trees are too little to be of any use at all so I have two options. I may need to go and gather up fallen leaves from the side of the road. This could be a public service as it would stop the footpaths being slippery and help stop drains being clogged. Although it would have to be a quiet street, to avoid overly polluted leaves, but I’m not entirely sure if you are allowed to do this, so maybe I could just ask my neighbours if I could clear up for them. Watch out for a crazy lady furtively gathering leaves.
Or I could just plant more trees. Now is a great time to head on down to the garden centre for trees.