Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mulch those leaves, don't throw them away

Many people bag leaves up on their property every year and put them out to the curb.  This is such a waste of organic matter.  One of the places this organic matter comes from is the soil.  Trees and bushes mine nutrients from the soil along with water to grow leaves.  Therefore, to replace the loss of nutrients, a person has to buy fertilizer or compost.

Instead of hauling off leaves here is what we did on our property this year.  We raked the leaves into multiple small piles.  I took out the lawn mower and put the bag on it.  I slowly worked the lawn mower over the pile of leaves, tilting it up and then slowly lowering it.  The bag filled up within a minute or so.  I then took the bag of chopped up leaves to the what I am calling my berry area.  Here I have blueberries and strawberries growing with beneficials like clover.  Around the blueberry bushes I put some of the compost that I was collecting in the kitchen and from work.  The compost included things like banana peels, coffee grounds, coffee filters, apple cores, etc... Then over this compost I put down two to three inches of my ground up leaves from the mower.

Leaves are a natural mulch and will protect the plants roots from the cold, just like wood chips.  They hold in moisture.  But, the best part of a leaf mulch versus a wood mulch is that it degrades much quicker.  By next spring the compost and chopped up leaves will become great top soil for the plants and bushes.

My next project is to mulch my garden with the remaining leaves.  Although, I am running out of leaves so, I will make some trips this weekend to other neighborhoods and look for people throwing out leaves.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Building the Terrace

Behind the house were a bunch of blackberries and other bushes.  While I enjoy picking blackberries out the back door, I wanted to do more with the space next spring.  Therefore, my step son and wife helped me clear the bushes out.

After chopping down the bushes, the lawnmower was run over the area to cut the stems close to the ground.  The cut branches and leaves were left where they were to add organic material.

My first thought was to add cardboard to kill of the existing plants and replant the area in the spring.  Unfortunately, after cutting the bushes I noticed there was quite a slope to this area.  Since this area has a drop off and is not level, I decided to fill it in with dirt from a hill in the yard.  This took quite a few wheel barrow loads; in some spots I needed 8 inches of soil.

When completed I had a slightly sloped terrace.  On the back side of the terrace I added some thin trees and branches that I chopped down.  This hopefully will stop the soil from eroding before I plant in it.  As a side bonus, they should provide extra organic material.

On top of the soil, I layed some cardboard down to kill the weeds.  I know there is a thought that cardboard contains chemicals, but a lot of people use this method so I'm going to as well.  On top of the cardboard I added about 3 inches of hay.  I was able to get the hay from a country and western party my work threw.  They were looking to throw in trash and I figured this would be a better use.  Hopefully next spring there aren't too much grass seedlings popping up.

It took a few weekends to get this project done for it was a decent size project.  Now, the leaves from the trees are adding an additional layer of mulch.  My hope is that by next spring I will be planting quite a few plants in the area.  All the organic matter will break down and make for very nice soil.