Nature’s Way of Feeding

Published on October 16, 2015
Written by Ray Access

Fallen leaves provide natural fertilizer for your lawn and gardens.

One day, they’re brightening the horizon with their brilliant yellow, orange and red hues. The next day, they are covering your lawn in a crunchy brown carpet. Perhaps that’s why it’s called the “fall.” By mid-November, the leaves are mostly all on the ground, leaving the landscape barren, sleeping until its spring revival.

Meanwhile, you’re stuck with a yard full of dead leaves, or as many gardeners agree, a wealth of dry gold in the form of mulch. The process that takes place during autumn is nature’s way of providing food for the plants, grass and flowers.

Mother Nature’s Healthy Plant Food

You may think of dried leaves as just a seasonal chore, something you either have to rake or hire someone else to rake for you. But they actually may save you money that you otherwise might have to spend on fertilizer. The mulch you can make with dead leaves contains phosphorous, potassium and nitrogen. It’s produced naturally by microorganisms that feed off the yard waste. As a result, you get fertilizer that needs few if any soil amendments.

Farmers in the past developed all-natural techniques to feed the earth on which they relied for their livelihood. While they allowed leaves to naturally mulch their gardens, however, today’s urban Appalachian inhabitants must develop a more deliberate approach to their leaves. They can’t just leave the leaves; the neighbors might complain.

Leaf Options

But you have options:

·         Rake the leaves into bags that usually get picked up during leaf season by your local municipality.

·         Blow the leaves to the curb, where your city’s giant leaf vacuums pick them up — if your city provides that service.

·         Run over the leaves with your mulching lawnmower or tractor, making the carpet layer in tiny pieces much easier to eventually disintegrate.

·         Blow the dried leaves to the sides of your yard, into bushes and flowerbeds to serve as a layer of protection from the frost.

·         Pile up the leaves and burn them, following the rules of your municipality, which means burning them far from woodlands or buildings.

·         Pick up the shredded leaves with a bag on your lawnmower to create your own black gold mulch or add them to your compost heap.

Composting Made Easy

The forests understand the concept of composting and do it naturally. There are not and never have been tiny munchkins that rake up leaves in the woods. Instead, the natural growth relies on the rich humus created by composting.

Create your own by following these simple steps:

1.       Fence off a section of your yard. Composting on bare earth allows the worms and other healthy organisms to aerate the mixture and make it even more useful as a rich fertilizer.

2.       Build some drainage in the area by laying a two-inch layer of twigs and branches on the ground.

3.       Dump your leaves in the compost with other natural materials like grass clippings, coffee grounds, eggshells and other leftover food.

4.       Let the rain keep the pile moist (water if your area goes through a drought).

5.       Turn the mixture every couple weeks or just let it ferment. You’ll have to dig under the top layers if you don’t mix it up, but compost is as good or better than any bagged potting soil.

Tips for Purity

Certain materials should not be put in your compost:

·         Meat, bones or fish that attract bugs and pests

·         Peach peels, orange rinds and banana peels that often contain pesticide residues

·         Weeds that can grow and take over the compost

·         Black walnut leaves, which are poisonous

·         Pet manure if you plan on using the compost on any fruit or vegetable gardens