A unique and viable approach to establishing local food self-reliance and building stronger communities.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Leaf Love!

How we use leaves in the garden...

Shag bark hickory.
Hello folks - Well, the autumn leaves have mostly fallen here in Monroe. It's been our best year yet for leaf-collection! We had a couple of cold snaps early on and not much rain so the colors were gorgeous (prettiest I can remember in over 20 years of living out west) and wonderfully dry, which makes it easier to rake them and bag them. This is the second year we've had a sign out front welcoming leaf-donations and the locals are definitely catching on. Hardly a day goes by without at least several bags showing up under our big Hickory tree. 

It's a real "win-win" as neighbors have a free, local place to bring their leaves (which they would otherwise need to burn, compost or take to the land-fill). We recycle the leaf-bags by hanging them in our greenhouses to dry and re-bundling them in packets of six which we offer free to folks in a trash can out front, saving people money from buying new ones and helping to reduce the purchase of single-use plastic.

Leaves in greenhouse paths.
The gardens benefit from having a free source of fertilizer - whether added to our compost bins, the paths of our greenhouses or directly mulching the garden-beds over the winter.

About a month ago, a local reporter offered to write an article about using leaves in one's landscape or garden and she included info about the Sharing Garden's leaf-collection program. Here is Edie's article re-printed with permission from the Tribune News (where it was first published).

By Edie Moro

The trees are beautiful in the fall with their shades of red, orange and burnt yellow. Then, the leaves are shed and the trees are bare. What do you do with the leaves?
Homeowners may want to make use of their bounty of leaves in their own gardens. Spread the leaves in a layer on the lawn and run a lawnmower over them several times. This chops up the leaves and adds grass clippings, which may then be spread over garden beds and under shrubs. Keep the chopped leaves away from the base of shrubs or trees where they could hide voles and other rodents that may chew on the bark.

Mowing leaves to use as mulch.
Also, for rhododendrons and azaleas, spread a light layer, no more than one or two inches, over their root zone. These shrubs are shallow-rooted and need access to oxygen. Piling mulch and clippings too deeply around these plants has been known to smother and kill them – called “death by volcano.”

Even easier - homeowners may want to just mow the leaves and let them melt into the lawn over the winter. It is a great, economical way to feed the lawn.

Sharing Gardens in Monroe would love your leaves. They use them to cover large areas of the gardens so they have time over the winter to compost and feed the worms and other soil-organisms and suppress weeds. The garden has stopped using animal manures as a source of soil fertility, and have turned to leaves, grass-clippings, wood-ash and coffee grounds as a replacement (see links below for more info).

Llyn Peabody and Chris Burns are the Sharing Gardens coordinators. They write a blog about the garden at www.thesharinggardens.blogspot.com/, which includes gardening information, recipes and other "homesteading" info. 

Llyn explains the need for the leaves, “There is a saying that, 'for every calorie you harvest out of a farm or garden, you must put at least a calorie back in'. In a typical year we harvest and share over six-thousand pounds of produce. We have to replenish a huge amount of organic-matter so our soils don't get depleted!”

Neighbors bring us grass!
The garden will accept most bagged leaves and grass clippings, with the following exceptions: “no animal waste, trash or sticks/branches, no holly or roses (too sharp), or black walnut leaves (they can kill plants). Also do not include diseased or insect-laden plant material. Just leaves and grass.

Sharing Gardens is located at 664 Orchard Street, Monroe, Oregon 97456, where there is a bright yellow house behind the Methodist Church. The coordinators ask people to leave the bags in a pile under the big, hickory tree at the back of the church parking lot. There are free previously-used lawn/leaf bags available in a trash-can underneath the hickory tree. The coordinators ask that bags be filled not too full and only lightly tied so that they may be re-used.

Thank you Edie and thank you to all the new and returning leaf-donors from this year! 
Gratitude for garden support!
For info on using leaves and grass clippings for fertility in your garden, CLICK HERE.

Leaves to mulch the gardens in winter.
For info about using wood-ashes and coffee grounds for fertility, CLICK HERE.

Adding wood ashes (and coffee grounds) for fertilizer.
For info about making your own potting mix (soil) in your greenhouse paths - using worms, CLICK HERE
Grass-clippings in our greenhouse paths.

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