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from the employee owners at Gardener's Supply Co.

Leaf Season

We try to take a day at some point during the fall to shred leaves, the key ingredient for something called leaf mold. We bring all the leaves we have and, if necessary, flag down a few folks going to the drop-off site with their leaves.

leaves

The Leaf Bagging Helper is a simple device that makes bagging easy. Slide this plastic chute into a standard 30-gal. paper yard waste bag to hold the bag upright and open; lay the bag on the ground and you can rake leaves right up the ramp and into the bag.

Our Vermont offices are on the road that leads to Burlington’s collection site for yard debris. From our windows, we see the parade of cars and trucks, filled to the brim with brown leaf bags.

At the collection site, the piles grow enormous. These golden leaves — lots of sugar maple, Norway maple and ash — are eventually made into compost by Intervale Compost Products.

We try to take a day at some point during the fall to shred leaves, the key ingredient for something called leaf mold. We bring all the leaves we have and, if necessary, flag down a few folks going to the drop-off site with their leaves. They’re always happy to get rid of their bags, and usually a bit curious about what we’re doing with shredded leaves.

Leaf mold is nothing more than partially decomposed leaves that are somewhere along the continuum between shredded leaves and humus. If you wonder what it looks like, next time you’re in the woods, just kneel down and push away a small area of dry leaves. Underneath, you’ll reveal a layer of leaf mold — a crumbly brown material with a pleasant, earthy scent.

Leaf mold has several great attributes. The first is that it can hold up to 500 percent of its own weight in water. Besides helping retain moisture in the soil by reducing evaporation, leaf mold also absorbs rainwater to reduce runoff, and in hot weather, it helps cool roots and foliage.

So if you have leaves, think twice about giving them away. With a shredder or a lawn mower, you can turn autumn leaves into a soil-enriching mulch. Learn how in the article Making Leaf Mold.

2 Comments

  1. October 22, 2010    

    Our leaves are just starting to fall here in Northern Virginia. I am considering keeping the leaves and composting them to make leaf mold. I am concerned that using leaf mold will make the soil too acidic for my perennials, shrubs and vegetables. Any thoughts on this?

  2. October 22, 2010    

    Hi Janet,
    Leaves from deciduous trees can have a slightly acidifying effect on the soil. This is rarely a problem when mulching around shrubs, but perennials are more sensitive and annuals even more so.

    Here are a couple suggestions. When piling up the fresh leaves this fall, sprinkle on some ground limestone. Also layer in a source of nitrogen such as manure or alfalfa meal. This will have the added effect of speeding up decomposition.

    Instead of mulching vegetables with straight shredded leaves or leaf mold, I balance out the nutrients and pH by amending the leaves with some finished compost, ground limestone and granular all-purpose fertilizer.

    The soil-enhancing, moisture retaining benefits of leaves is so valuable — it’s well worth this extra effort. -Kathy

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We are an employee-owned company of avid gardeners, located in Burlington, VT.