Autumn is here, and with it your garden might be covered in leaf fall. As colourful as it is, with its hues of gold and brown, a leaf covering on your lawn can bring some benefits, and some potential problems.
Let’s look at how to use this natural annual resource to help your lawn through the Winter.
Leaf Much – Is that Just Fallen Leaves?
Leaf mulch is an organic and inexpensive way to make your plant grow and be nutrient-rich, It is a layer of shredded leaves that covers your topsoil. Leaf mulch can be any material and it can be simply spread over plants to insulate and enrich your garden’s soil. It helps keep soil temperature consistent and adds valuable nutrients. The leaf mulch stops weeds from growing around the base of plants and acts as a protectant against the surrounding soil. It is the most nutritious material that you can feed to your garden or lawn areas. Leaf mulch almost costs nothing and outweighs the benefits of buying bags of synthetic mulch. It is a great gift of nature that helps provide plants with the nutrients that they need.
Leaf Mulch Benefits and How it Can Help Your Garden
Leaf mulch has several benefits in keeping your garden healthy and productive. It is an important part of keeping your plants healthy, especially during winter. You can create an effective weed barrier that prevents other grass from growing and can also act as an insulator protecting your garden from insects, plants, and animals. One of the main benefits of adding leaf mulch is safeguarding earthworms. Earthworms provide efficient soil aeration and water infiltration. Their excrement or castings form soil aggregates and can also relieve soil compaction and make nutrients readily available for your plants. Leaf mulch prevents your garden from soil erosion and keeps it hydrated by preventing water loss from evaporation. Mulching improves soil quality because it suppresses weeds and when it decomposes into compost, it suppresses disease.
The Varieties of Mulch
The most common material used for mulch is leaves. Leaves are mostly used because they are readily available and can be gathered easily. If you have a tree around your place, you already have a sufficient supply of mulch and it is already ready to use. There are many varieties of mulch but almost all leaves can be used. Leaves such as horse chestnuts, hornbeam, and oak trees have naturally occurring chemicals that help break themselves down and provide a good mulch material for your garden. There are two basic types of mulch, organic and inorganic. Organic must be replaced on a regular basis because they decompose while inorganic mulch doesn’t need to be replenished often.
Below are some examples of mulch materials:
- * Hardwood
- * Softwood Chips
- * Tree Waste – Branches, Twigs, Splintered Trunks
- * Compost Mixes
- * Cardboard
- * Tree Bark – Shredded Hardwood Bark
- * Evergreen Needles
- * Grass Clippings
- * Gravel
- * Rubber
- * Pumice Rock
- * Rubber
- * Rock Stone
- * Lava Rock
- * Crusher Dust
- * Landscape Fabrics
- * Newspapers
If you want to keep out weeds in your garden, inorganic mulch like pumice rock, gravel, and newspapers are excellent. Organic mulches like tree wastes and tree barks improve soil fertility, structure, and aeration. Many landscape professionals prefer organic mulch because they provide many natural benefits to the soil. There are certain benefits that inorganic mulch provides such as better drainage, longevity, and safety. Rubber mulch can be used in playgrounds and wet areas to avoid slippage and to also prevent any hazards.
How to Make Leaf Mulch
You can easily make leaf mulch at home. It is easy to do and with basic garden appliances, the whole process is fast. Below are steps on how to make your own leaf mulch
STEP 1: COLLECT FALLEN AUTUMN LEAVES
You can collect fallen autumn leaves from nearby trees and use a leaf blower or garden vacuum to gather the leaves. It is best to use a rubber rake as the rubber provides a grippier surface for leaves to attach and it is also softer material protecting your garden. You should gently rake the leaves into a pile in the direction of where the wind is blowing. Using a metal rake will be harsh for your garden as it can harm and destroy plants.
STEP 2: COLLECTING LEAVES
Before collecting leaves, sort out diseased leaves from healthy ones. Diseased leaves will spread out disease to any other healthy plants if you use them as leaf mulch. Avoid using leaves with litter as the litter will struggle to break down and add contaminants to your leaf mulch and soil.
STEP 3: SHREDDING LEAVES
Once you have sorted and collected your leaves, it is time to shred them. Garden vacuums can shred leaves as they are collected making the whole process of making leaf mulch easy and convenient. If you collected the leaves manually, you can use a garden or leaf shredder. Shredders are also a convenient way to make leaf mulch because it shreds leaves fast and precisely. Another alternative is by placing the leaves in a plastic bin and using a grass trimmer which functions like a kitchen blender.
How to Use a Leaf Mulch
Once you have sorted and shredded your leaves to a suitable size, you can now use a leaf mulch for your garden. Place the leaves in your plant and flower beds for about 2 or 3 inches thick. You should be cautious that the mulch does not touch the stems of any plants and also does not cover smaller plants. This is done to prevent any harm to the growth and health of the plants in your garden. Keep decomposing materials such as mulch away from healthy plants.
To protect your plant’s bases, you can use around 4 to 5 inches of mulch. As you add mulch to your garden, earthworms and other beneficial organisms begin to fill in your garden. This is a sign that your leaf mulch process is successful and you may soon see healthier and more productive soil for your garden. You should also shred leaves as some sections of whole leaves can bind together and coalesce. When this happens, nutrients and water cannot pass through the surface. Reducing the leaf mulch size can give microorganisms that chance to decompose and give your plants the needed nutrients. You can use leaf mulch in your compost pile to balance out nitrogen-rich waste such as fresh grass clippings, plant cuttings, and vegetable scraps.