- Author: Kathy Thomas-Rico
Fall is a well-named season. Downed leaves are filling rain gutters, carpeting lawns and blowing into the nooks and crannies of yards all over Solano County.
I’ve noticed something that accompanies all those leaves hitting the ground, and it’s just as annoying: leaf blowers.
(I promise this will not be a screed on blowers. They have their place in modern yard maintenance. But do we really have to fire up those blowers at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday? And, honestly, does anyone rake anymore?)
All of this begs the question: Do we really need to clean up and haul off all those fallen leaves, only to turn around and buy bags of mulch for our yards? What’s the research-based word on using our leaves as “free” mulch? The University of California Cooperative Extension Central Coast & South Region Center for Landscape and Urban Horticulture has created a list of the pros and cons of mulch that’s very helpful. Bottom line: It does indeed pay to use your own leaves as mulch. It helps to control weeds, conserve moisture, moderate soil temperature, enhance water absorption, prevent erosion, and enrich the soil.
The key is to use only healthy leaves. Don’t toss in the mildewed grape leaves or the rust-infested rose leaves. Do consider using those pecan or walnut shells as mulch.
Another suggestion I’ve seen in the quest for successful mulching is a leaf shredder. Or, if you don’t want to go out and pay for a shredder, use your lawn mower to chop up the leaves, gather them up and spread a 2- to 4-inch layer around your plants. Remember, mulch should be used as a top dressing only. Do not mix raw mulch in with your garden soil, as it will deplete the nitrogen level in your soil as it decomposes.
My husband rakes up the leaves on our property and tosses them into compost piles. We eventually get lovely shovelfuls of leaf mold, compost that uses only leaves. Here’s a link to another UCCE article on making leaf mold, which you can use as a soil amendment or mulch.
- Author: Edward Walbolt
I was talking with a few fellow gardeners recently and was asked for some suggestions on what gardeners can do to keep our garden space looking its best and in the best health during the taxing, hot, summer months. The first and maybe most important thing a gardener can do in mid-summer is to mulch the beds of the garden so that moisture levels are maintained in the soil during long hot days. This will prevent some of the extra watering the garden often needs of those 90+ degree days. In addition to adding mulch I also add compost to my flower and vegetable gardens to get some fresh nutrients to the plants which are often overdue to be replenished. Most of us compost the garden in early spring and after a few months all of the beneficial nutrients have been used up and need to be replaced. It is especially important for vegetables so that they have plenty of nutrients to complete bearing mature fruit. This is also a good time to stake the larger vegetable plants for reinforcement and continued healthy production. The vegetable plants will likely increase in size after the composting has been re-done and staking the plants in advance will enable continued plant growth. The middle of summer is an opportune time to dead head old blooms and make room for fresh new ones to begin developing. It is a little detail that makes a big difference if you have lost some color in your flower garden. Finally, this time of year is a great time to weed the garden carefully, remove the unwanted weeds and make some space for your favorite plants to stretch out and fill in.