That’s right, Goodness is literally falling from the trees….but what ‘Goodness’, what is ‘falling from the trees’…leaves.
Leaves are falling off the trees and these make the most wonderful additions to your garden soil.
The autumn colours have been amazing in the gardens and woodlands, but the storms coming over the next few days will see a vast amount of leaves falling from the trees, and start to cover our lawns, block the street drains and offer a once a year opportunity to gather the most productive of free soil additive you can get.
You see leaves falling from the trees are amazing for soil, as the leaves rot down they provide food and stimulation of the many living organisms in our soil, from the earthworms to the bacteria and fungii, everything in our soil love leaves. And without healthy soil you have an unhappy, less productive garden.
Healthy soil is crucial for every part of gardening, by having a well enriched soil you can weed easier, dig with less effort, plants grow better, you need to feed less, you use less pesticides. No bad thing comes from having healthy soil.
And all these leaves provide a wonderful opportunity for you to gather up natures windfall and put it to a productive use. In a big garden the easiest thing you can do is blow the leaves in amongst the shrub beds and leave them undisturbed amongst the plants and allow them to rot down over the next year, prohibiting weed growth as they sit there.
For a small garden (or where you don’t have much leaves of your own) gather the fallen leaves into black refuse sacks, pierce these with a few holes and then stack behind the garage or shed for the next year. After 12 months or so the contents of the bags will have reduced by ⅔ and what’s left will be well broken down leaf mould compost. You can then use a handful of this when planting shrubs, or bedding plants, alternatively you can sieve it and use it with some compost when you’re sowing your seeds, or you can use it as a mulch around your garden plants, veg beds and fruit garden.
Alternatively you can consider building a cage or pen to stack your Autumn leaves in, cover this when full and then open it back up in 2017 and start utilising the brown gold then. Whatever the size of the garden you have, or the quantity of leaves you have access to, you can decide on a method for gathering this black gold.
Why can’t I put them in my normal compost bin? If you’re only adding 2-3” of leaves at a time and then adding your normal household waste then yeah, batter on! But normally we have such a glut of leaves that we put big thick layers into the bins, this big layer of brown waste slows, and even stops, the decomposition of the rest of the waste in the bin. So if you’ve a lot of leaves start a separate exclusive bin for these, or consider the black bag method.
Is there much feed in leaves? No, there is really small levels of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium in leaves. What you want to focus on here is the levels of organic matter they add to the soil, and the benefits this does in turn to your soil. When you increase the organic matter in your soil it improves the structure of your soil, thus allowing more air to move through your soil, making it easier to work and allows for better root penetration by your plants. It improves the water movement in your soil, reducing unwanted water retention and allows for the easiest movement of water in soil, thus reducing water stress in the summer months. It improves nutrient retention by the soil, so when you do feed your plants, this organic matter will help to retain nutrients and the greater root systems of your plants will better utilise these added nutrients. It encourages the biodiversity within your soil, this covers everything from worms to fungii, the bigger diversity of living things you have in the soil the less pesticides you have to reach for. It makes weeding easier.
I urge you all not to allow this bounty from nature not to go to waste and try to bag up at least 30 black bags per household (it seems a lot but when it rots down you’ll use every last bit of it!)
Happy leaf gathering…and sure you might even do a bit of kids art with some too!
Gareth Austin is Horticulturist with BBC Radio Foyle and delivering Horticultural training from the National Learning Network in Letterkenny. You can follow gather on Twitter @GardenerGareth and on www.garethaustin.comTags: