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Tidy up your garden

Improve your soil and garden organically with valuable garden boosters that grow on trees. 

In fall, our village has a day to pick up fallen leaves. It is a day when homeowners and landscapers blow fallen leaves from their homes and leave them in large piles on the streets. Later a truck comes and vacuums them up. What I see is dollar bills, the money these homeowners will spend next year buying lawn and garden fertilizer, mulch and bagged compost. You could have saved money if you had used leaves from your garden.

Why are leaves so valuable to gardeners?
➢ It’s simple. When mixed with soil, the leaves fall off.
➢ Added nutrients including phosphorus and potassium.
➢ Increases microbial life in soil.
➢ Enhances moisture retention.
➢ Improve structures known as slopes.

And did I mention the leaves are free?
Creating leaves requires a little effort. So, instead of sweeping leaves to the curb, here are five ways to use leaves in your garden.

Mow the lawn
Using a combination of shredded leaves and grass clippings adds carbon from the leaves and nitrogen from the grass to the soil, reducing the need to add store-bought fertilizer later.

Here’s how: Use a mulching mower. If you have bags, remove them and point the discharge chute toward the lawn so that clippings fly onto the lawn instead of the street or driveway. Set the mower height to approximately 3 inches. If the leaves still remain in large pieces, pass through one more time. Shredded leaves should not be placed deeper than 3/4 inch into the lawn. It decomposes in the soil over the winter and disappears in the spring.

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Add to your vegetable garden

You can add whole or chopped leaves to your organized vegetable garden. Most will decompose over the winter, and you can mix up what’s left in the spring. If you don’t want to see leaves left in your bed, shred them first.

Don’t have a grinder?
A trash can and string trimmer will work. Use a 55-gallon trash can. Fill about 3/4 full with leaves.
Put the trimmer in, turn it on, and move it through the leaves. Be sure to wear eye and ear protection. Are you ready to redesign your yard? Find a landscape designer in RDKLandscaping.

Create a leaf frame

Leaf mold is simply wet leaves that break down into a rich, black, earthy substance that makes the perfect mulch for your plants. Stack the leaves where they won’t blow away and out of the way. Alternatively, make a large 3- to 4-foot circle with 3-foot-tall wire and pile the leaves inside it. If you wet the leaves, they will rot. Turning the pile several times during the winter will speed up the process.

Tear or roll the leaves and place them in a compost pile to rot over the winter

A better option is to store the dried leaves in trash bags or pile them up in a secluded location for the summer. Warm weather enriches compost piles with moist green matter nitrogen. However, for the composting process to work aerobically and not decay, a lot of “brown” carbon is needed in the form of dried material. What you need to know about winter composting

Protect your outdoor plants
As the weather gets colder and potted plants or non-tropical plants that need to be moved indoors go dormant, choose a safe location on the north, west, or east side of your home. Ideally, the pot should be stored under an overhang. Stack dried leaves at the top, bottom, and between entire groups of pots.

If you live in a windy area, tie the planter with wire to keep the leaves from blowing away. Pile the leaves a few inches deep and plant as many as you can to cover the entire pot. Both plants and pots should survive the winter well under this insulating blanket. This method allows you to place your terracotta pots outdoors as long as water does not get into them and freeze. Prepare your container garden for winter.

What’s the worst thing you can do with fallen leaves?

Burn it. Most local governments have banned leaf burning, and for good reason. Burning leaves pollute the air, cause problems for people with respiratory problems and pose a fire hazard. Plus, as you can see, there are a lot more valuable things you can do with leaves.

Learn more about RDKLandscaping. Additional guides to fall gardening. (Add Support Link) Find a landscape designer.  shop lawn and garden tools and accessories.

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