Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Recycling Leaves

Roadside Leaf "Drifts"

Roadside Leaf “Drifts”

Hello fellow readers,

About leaf manners. It is not neighborly to put your leaves into other’s woods or fields without permission.  And, unless your town has a leaf sucking-up program (curbside vacuuming), putting them in the street is not a polite solution as they will blow onto your neighbor’s property.  Bagging leaves into plastic bags that end up in landfills is also a sad fate.  But if your town collects paper sacks and brings them to a compost facility, the future of your leaves can be a happy one.

Better yet, why not use your leaves? Leaf mold is composted leaves packed with minerals. When added to your garden, they feed earthworms and beneficial microbes, lighten clay soils, and help retain moisture.

First, shred up your leaves if you can. If you don’t have a leaf shredder, let the leaves pile up on the lawn and then drive over them a few times with the lawnmower. Shredding leaves prevent them from packing together into layers that won’t let air or water penetrate, and it reduces the volume dramatically.

Make leaf mold by merely raking the leaves into a big pile. If shredded, they will decompose faster, but you can still make leaf mold without shredding. After one to three years, the fungus will break down your leaves to a rich, earthy smelling black material similar to compost. There is a technique to make leaf mold in plastic bags punched with holes, water to moisten, and a scoop of soil added, which accelerates the process to 6 to12 months.

Dig the nutrient-rich substance into your vegetable garden, or add to beds and borders. Leaf mold in container gardens will prevent pots from drying out so quickly.  Or, rather than digging it in, you can apply leaf mold as you would mulch.  And if you don’t like the way leaves look, you can top-dress them with a thin layer of purchased mulch.  But please steer clear of colored mulch, which is not suitable for your plants and seems contrary to helping the wellbeing of our earth by recycling leaves.

Garden dilemmas?








Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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