As I walk through my neighborhood, I can never help but notice all the bags of leaves and grass cuttings lining the streets. Today, I probably saw a few tons of leaf bags eagerly awaiting the Sanitation Department’s arrival. These bags will be using up a huge amount of valuable space at the landfill. At the same time, I noticed local gardeners spreading purchased black mulch around the neighborhood as well. One could not help but notice the lovely smell that the gardeners left behind in their wake. The vast amounts of waste, both natural and financial, drove me to write about this topic- conservation through leaf mulching and composting.
Dead leaves are not for the trash, but they have value, and can be viewed as “brown gold.” Each year, I estimate that I mow up at least a thousand pounds of leaves. I deposit these along with banana peels, orange, potato, cucumber, and other vegetable parts into large wheeling garbage bins, stomp on them, water them, and close the lids. Add a shovel or two of native soil to help introduce bacteria to the mixture. After a few days or weeks, the leaves begin to heat up with the bacteria that decomposes them into soil in a non- smelly way. When Springtime comes around, I have a fresh supply of rich dark brown leaf mulch to spread around the garden which cuts out weeds, keeps the soil moist while extending the days in between waterings, freshens up the look of your yard, and adds lots of nutrients back to the garden. After partial decomposition, spreading a thickness of 3-4 inches of this rich dark brown mulch in your garden will have a profound effect in the coming years. With the mulch cover, one will be able to irrigate the garden once every 5-7 days, but make sure when irrigating, that the water penetrates the mulch cover. Mulch Study
In the Fall, I rake the garden, mixing the old mulch with the soil underneath. Mulch on top of the root ball to protect the roots for the winter months, keeping them warm. The trees have never looked so good, and the rest of the garden loves it too. If you let the mulch stay in the bins too long, you will notice compost earth beginning to form. This compost is also great for potted plants, but I end up using it all before it gets to that point. I’ve even re-potted plants into larger pots with nothing but leaves and its original earthball. The plants very quickly re-adjust to their new nutrient rich environment, and flourish.
Before the leaves fall, one can also mulch the grass cuttings directly into the grass, to add a “timed release” dosage of nutrients back into the lawn. It also beats having to haul away hundreds of pounds of grass cuttings each year. If your grass soil is predominantly hard clay that feels more like cement in the summer, you can begin altering the soil by using a bulb plugger, pulling out deep clay cores from the ground, and stuffing the holes with leaves from your mulch bins. Another way, using my other innovative technique is to do lawn trenching or leaf trenching, that is to create multiple trenches with a flat shovel by pushing the shovel into the grass/ ground, rocking the shovel back and forth forming a trench/ furrow, and then stuff the furrows with leaves and decayed leaf mulch. Push the mulch all the way into the trench with the edge of the flat shovel, then stepping on the trench and watering it will push everything together. These leaf trenches will not be seen after the grass grows back, and will help hold more water for your lawn.
If a loose dog leaves you a present on your grass, I’ve started using that bulb plugger to make the hole in the ground, and then shoveling the manure into that hole. I then take the grass/soil plug that I’ve removed, and stuff the “cork” back into the hole, permanently imbedding the fertilizer into the ground. The entire process takes one minute.
As an inventor and innovator, I often come up with new solutions to old problems. For times of drought, when there are water restrictions implemented in your neighborhood, you can try this experiment. “Plug holes” in the lawn and garden, and pour pure coarse sand, or Lava Sand into these 8 inch deep hollows, in alternating rows spaced a couple of feet apart, in order to create small reservoirs of water for the grass. Each time one waters the lawn or it rains, the sand cores, or sand hollows should saturate, releasing water over the next few days, which will keep your lawn looking green, with less green leaving your wallet. The addition of a flat, flexible, light-weight, soaker hose when needed, will really help the grass saturate without evaporation while using less water than the sprinkler system’s longer durations.
I hooked up Ace Hardware Brass Hose Quick Connector Set, with automatic shutoff to two sprinkler zones, allowing for soaker hoses to be added at times of need. This way, when the sprinkler goes, the soaker hoses are timed to go with that zone, filling the sand hollows with water. With the sand cores, leaf furrows, soaker hoses, and shortened watering time, you will find less water runoff into the street, or totally eliminate the wasted runoff water. For my ratings on soaker hoses check out the Product Reviews at the bottom of this page. You can use the left-over soil cores like the ones in the picture above, to build up areas in the lawn that are uneven or have sank due to tree roots, so nothing is wasted.
Besides leaf mulching at the tree base, a fresh idea for deep feeding the trees, is coring three to four deep cores at the drip line around a tree, then placing a two-foot long, holed, PVC pipe vertically into the core. Drop a tree stake into each hole, and fill the holes with water. Cap the pipe with a drain cap. The water will leach out feeding the tree, surrounding plants, and grass.
These are some of my various solutions to certain gardening problems. The best part of home-made mulch is the price. Most people would agree that free is much better than paying someone $500-$1000 to mulch your yard for you. Their mulch, composed mostly of wood chips, is not as healthy and beneficial for your soil as your own leaf mulch is, which decomposes more rapidly, constantly adding to the soil’s makeup.
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