Monday, March 16, 2009


Good, because I had almost forgotten to post about the free, soil enriching, environmentally conscious mulch of choice around here (as a follow up to the warnings about the dangers of using recycled tire mulch).

It all started when I noticed how pretty the oak leaves looked in our back garden. We have about five oaks within our fenced back garden and many more just outside of the fenced area. I had this unoriginal thought: why not just let nature do what it is supposed to do and allow these leaves to stay in the garden? So I did. I raked them just so to use as mulch for our flowers back there...and after a few days I looked it up online (my books make no mention of such a thing). Turns out my hunch was right. This is a good way to mulch naturally and for free. Besides cooling the soil, as the leaves slowly decompose they enrich it as well. They are one of earthworm's prefered snacks & are loaded with micronutrients that are hard to find in store bought stuff.

But...there is an even better way to use leaves as mulch: using a leaf shredder before spreading the mulch around. This helps make the composting of the leaves a lot quicker. I am saving to buy one of those (not cheap, but cheaper than buying mulch for such a large area)...but in the meantime I just let nature do its thing.

In the front garden where we have no oaks I use leaves from my neighbors. The folks next door let me have their leaves ("You mean you'll give us free salad greens in exchange for our garden trash? Errr...okay..."). During my morning runs I am always on the look out for front yards where no pesticides or any 'cides' are used...after that, I wait until they put their garden waste out and ask if I can steal their trash. Very scientific.

If you have oak leaves available to you and you are concerned about them changing your soil's PH, I found out that only several years of this practice will have a minor effect in your soil's PH (as the leaves decompose very slowly). All you'd have to do, when and where needed is to counterbalance with natural nutrients to counterbalance oak's acidic tendencies.

It takes a bit of extra work as you will have to quickly screen the contents of the trash bags before tossing them on your garden, but
I think it is worth the effort.

If you are worried about the leaves blowing all over the place, worry not. Some odd law of physics takes place once you put them where you want them...they seem to huddle together and the wind does almost no mess at all.

I also know of people who call arborists to see if they could pick up the mulched trees (for free)...but that I am a bit weary of as I would never be able to tell if the tree (and its wood) was sick.
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