Last week I gave a talk at the Richmond Garden club and talked about using mulches in the garden. One of my favourite mulches is leaf mold. It’s wonderful for the garden as it helps to keep the soil from drying out if applied during the summer. When placed on the garden in fall, it provides shelter for overwintering insects, adds nutrients to the soil and prevents soil loss. The photo above is one year old leaf mold from leaves collected last fall.
Many of us have several deciduous trees on our property and spend a lot of time raking leaves in the fall. We often bag them up and place them at the end of our driveway for green waste pickup. Here we are giving away a valuable resource and then buying it back as soil in the spring. The city takes your green waste and sends it to a large composting facility. Once composted it’s sold back to consumers by the yard or as bagged soil. Basically we are paying someone to take our clippings and leaves to create compost and potting soil that we buy back in the spring. There is something wrong with this picture. You can do this yourself with little effort.
As your leaves fall on the lawn use the lawnmower to shred them and pick them up with your bag attachment. If you don’t have a bag on your lawnmower you will need to rake the leaves into a pile after mowing. Take the shredded leaves and place them into heavy-duty garbage bags. Poke a couple of drainage holes in the bags so they don’t get too wet from winter rains. Trust me, leaves can get very heavy when wet.
Last year we placed some bags in a shady spot under our trees and some in area that gets sun. Does it make a difference? Yes. The leaves left in the shade didn’t break down as fast but were still used. The bags left to get some sun over the winter had broken down into lovely crumbly leaf mold. I was ecstatic to see how well it had worked. If you are not saving leaves to make leaf mold, place your leaves on the garden beds to protect your plants over the winter. Many leaves will decay over the winter and disappear as plants grow in the spring.