Hello! Our narrow lot is home to three large maple trees, one ornamental crab apple tree and several large shrubs. The largest of the maples looks like this:
That peak you see in the right side of the picture is the attic of our house, and the maple towers over it! So needless to say, leaves pile up thickly on our property this time of year and need to be dealt with.
Our city does have a fall leaf pickup, which of course means that the leaves have to be raked out onto the curb. But being an organic garderner, I prefer to turn our leaves into mulch and compost.
A few years back, I tried a technique I'd read about, in which shredded leaves are layered with soil and fertilizer (organic fertilizer, in my case) in a yard waste-type bag, then left to break down into compost to be used the following spring. This worked okay, but the filled bags were heavy and unwieldy to deal with.
Most years, I simply mowed the leaves with our lawnmower, with the bag in place to catch the leaves. The bag filled up quickly and so I had to empty it often. And even though the leaves were broken up some, it seemed that they didn't break down as much as I would have liked over the winter. Mulch is good, but I also wanted the leaves to break down enough to enrich the soil underneath.
But then a few weeks ago, on the Gardenista website, I read the following: "To make shredded mulch, rake leaves into a long row about a foot wide.
Then run a lawn mower over the leaves, back and forth, a few times.
Spread a 1-inch layer of shredded leaves around the roots of plants."
So that was my problem - I was only mowing the leaves once, duh. Would I have better results if I mowed over the leaves once or twice without the bag, then attach the bag to go over the leaves to collect them?
I was concerned that this would take more time and use more gasoline, but decided to try it to see how it worked. I was pleasantly surprised that it didn't really take longer; in fact, it might have been a bit quicker. How so? Well, the initial, bag-less mowing broke up the leaves enough that when the bag was attached, it didn't fill up nearly as quickly, so there was no more stopping every couple of minutes to empty the bag.
Some of the finished mulch is seen below, near a rugosa rose bush:
A few whole leaves had drifted down after my leaf mulch was put in place, but overall, this is a finer mulch than what I had produced other years! Time will tell how much it broken down by next spring, but from now on, this is how I'll take care of the multitude of fallen leaves we get every autumn.
(If you'd like to read Gardenista yourself, you can find it HERE.
It's actually not a particularly thrift-oriented site, but along with the lush photos of fancy gardens and even fancier flower shops, there's some good gardening info).