Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Last Chance for Free Mulch!

Looking around there are many houses with their Christmas lights on, but here in New England we've been experiencing an unusually warm fall.  Just this week the temperatures have been in the 60s!  The freakishly warm weather allowed me the opportunity to get some yard work done this past weekend, get some fresh air, and get a dose of Mycobacterium vaccae, nature's prozac :)   Besides continuing tree cleanup from the October storm that snapped the leaf laden trees like twigs, there was still raking to be done, and lots of general cleanup. As they say, a gardener's job is never done. 

What to do with all those leaves?  Don't bag them up and put them in the trash!  That's like throwing away a gift from nature, free mulch :)  When I have an area where I want to create or expand a flower bed, I simply rake the leaves to that area, and mound up a pile about 10-24".  I leave the leaves there over the winter, and the rain and snow pack down the leaves, and instead of having to remove grass to create the bed, the worms and leaves do the work for me.  In other areas, I use a thick layer of leaves to prevent weeds from growing, and it is one less area that we have to mow.  I also use leaf mulch around the base of trees.  As the leaves breakdown, they release nutrients into the soil.  During the winter months the leaf mulch helps to insulate the tree, and during the warmer months, the mulch helps to maintain moisture around the roots of the trees. 

Some gardeners choose to chop up leaves with a mower or leaf blower/vac.  If we happen to be mowing a section of the lawn, we take advantage of the leaves being collected and chopped.  Then we empty the bag with grass/leaves where we want it.  You can use a 3-4" layer of leaf mulch blanket to tuck in your perennials for the winter, and nourish the soil in preparation for springtime.  Don't forget to add some leaves to your compost pile while you're busy raking.  In fact, you might want to rake a small pile of leaves next to your compost bin, so that you can scoop some leaves on top of your "greens" each time, layering for optimum composting. 

If I'm lucky, the weather will hold, and I will be able to get back to the yard work, tuck in a few more newly  planted perennials for the winter, and get another dose of Mycobacterium vaccae.  I hope you'll take advantage of nature's free mulch gift too ;)   Happy raking!