Steele: What to do with all those leaves

Fallen leaves are the best source of free organic matter for my garden.

For many of us, fallen leaves are a nuisance and hard to get rid of because the green bin won’t hold them all.

To me, they are the best source of free organic matter for my garden.

Excellent compost can be made with alternating layers of leaves and manure.

Larger leaves, when shredded, are greatly reduced in volume and decompose much faster.

This can be done with a power mower (hopefully a non-polluting electric model).

If they have fallen on a lawn, or can be raked onto one, a final cutting of the lawn can be done at the same time as the leaf shredding.

If the mower has a bagging option, leaves and clippings can be collected together.

Grass clippings speed decomposition of the leaves.

Shreddings could be spread directly onto garden beds for mulch, or composted.

If you are filling your green bin, shredded leaves take up way less room.

Alternatively, you might have a gardening neighbour who would love to have them.

I always check my neighbourhood for bagged leaves waiting to go to the landfill compost, taking only the bags of small leaves because the smaller the leaves, the faster they rot. I’d love to also find shredded ones.

If the leaves are in coloured plastic bags I spray a bit of water into the bag and retie it.

By spring the leaves have become wonderful leaf mould complete with earth worms.

This is one of the best mulches I have found for my sandy garden soil.

The rotting process does not take place in clear bags.

I leave the small leaves from my honey locust tree on the garden bed where they fall to mulch my plants.

This is called a closed loop waste cycle just as would be found in nature.

It is good for my wallet and my back. I don’t rake up the leaves and I don’t have to pay for and spread mulch over that garden.

Now is a great time to make a lasagne garden to create a new garden bed of great soil for planting into next spring.

If on a lawn, cut the grass very short. Water the site and lay down a layer of wet cardboard.

Then cover with two to four inch thick layers of alternating ‘green’ and ‘brown’ materials, soaking each layer before adding the next. Continue until it’s about two feet high.

Start with chunky ‘brown’ material such as straw or frost killed plants from the garden. Subsequent brown layers could all be leaves.

‘Green’ layers could be compost, kitchen waste, garden soil, manure.

Set aside a couple of bags of leaves to spread some on the pile each time you add kitchen waste to your compost bin. This ensures good decomposition.

Warning: put all walnut leaves in the green bin as they have a toxin that deters growth of some plants.

Kelowna Capital News