It is late autumn again and the leaves are turning red, golden and orange before finally tumbling to the ground. It is nature’s gift and regardless of what the moon phases are doing, it is time to gather them up and put them to good use.
Bed in your plants for winter
In nature, leaves like snow protect the roots of growing trees and shrubs from the cold. If you have plants that don’t tolerate a cold winter, add leaves around the stem to protect them from the frosty nights.
Additionally, you can wrap certain plants and pots with horticultural fleece. Normally I do this every year and my outdoor plants always survive the cold. But last year I forgot and had a few painful losses, especially my lovely banana tree and some tree ferns.
So this year I made sure to protect my surviving tree ferns. First I generously covered the top (where the leaves grow from) with layers of leaves. Then I covered the soil in the pot with leaves. Finally, I wrapped the stem and pot with agricultural fleece. This will come off around early March.
Make leaf mulch
If you own a lot of deciduous plants, don’t dispose of the leaves, but instead make precious leaf mulch.
Hornbeam, willow, birch and other deciduous leaves will rot down in roughly one year. Evergreens and conifers may need 2 years (pine even longer). Therefore please don’t mix evergreens, conifers and normal deciduous leaves together.
Here is what to do:
1. Rake up the leaves into neat piles. If leaves are very large, you can shred them or hover them up with a lawn mower.
2. Put these leave piles into garden bags. When the bag is almost full, spray the leaves with water and then punch a few holes in the bags (you can use the rake for this or a simple garden fork) and tie them up.
3. Place the leave bags in a shady place, for example under a big bush or shady corner of your garden – a place where they are not in the way and can be left for a year or more. Sometimes you may open the bag and stir it around with a garden fork to speed up the composting process.
Leave mulch is rich in carbon. In spring you can add some nitrogen in the form of grass clippings, nettles and a small amount of vegetable peels.
4. When you open a bag a year later, the leaves will have decomposed into a dark- brown crumbly substance, also known as leaf mulch.
Spread it around your trees, shrubs and flowers to help them retain moisture, suppress weeds, and improve soil health.
Leaf mulch is a great plant tonic and you can sprinkle it over your lawn and add some of it to your compost heap.
Acid lovers such as camellias, rhododendrons, and azaleas will be particularly happy with leaf mulch. It is particularly helpful to add a few handfuls to your soil before seeding a new vegetable plot or flower beds.
The best dates for bringing out leaf mulch, are Water Days and Earth Days during the Waning Moon.