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Composting leaves.| Diane St. John.

Leaves a valuable resource for your yard

We have been taught to think of leaves as something to “get rid of.” We rake them up, bag them and throw them away. We pay crews to use loud, gas powered machines to blow them off our garden beds and vacuum them up into trucks and cart them to the dump. Many towns spend a lot of money to take leaves from yards every fall. What if we could learn to recycle these, right on our property?

Here are several ways to use leaves.

1. Top dress vegetable beds in late fall after a hard frost (especially garlic, planted in late fall). Leaves keep the beds mulched and regulates soil temperature swings and suppresses winter weeds. In spring, turn whatever leaves are there into the soil with a pitchfork. Worms love this (it is what they eat). Worms create the best organic soil conditioner there is.

2. Use a mulching mower and mow leaves over the lawn-Chopped leaves break down very quickly. Lawns can always use more organic matter for water retention and soil microbes. Soil microbes break down thatch and fertilize the soil.

3. Do not rake shade gardens and under trees. Toads (and your garden) will appreciate this. Toads will hibernate there, and in spring and summer, they will eat all the slugs and bugs that bother shade plantings.

4. Leaves mixed with kitchen scraps and other green plant material will make beautiful compost available all season.

5. Use leaves to create new garden beds in fall. Outline the new garden bed, lay cardboard down on top of the lawn and add a very thick layer of leaves on top. In spring, the grass is dead and the new garden can be edged and planted without having to dig out the grass. Spread a natural finely chopped mulch on top of the leaves after planting.



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