Just like we are what we eat, so are our gardens. And that starts with the soil. I have to admit, I really never practiced what I preached in this regard. Guilty of lack of time I guess, my gardens get overlooked a bit, especially through the busy design season. All its shortcomings hidden by my low yew hedge.
I mulch the bare spots when I can, I apply fertilizer (Miracle Grow) to the plants I really want to flower (Rhodo and Endless Summer Hydrangeas) and water when a few of my plants look desperate.
But one year around this time, a neighbour was having a tree removed. This created a lot of fresh mulch and even more chopped up leaves. She didn’t want it in her garden so the tree removal company asked if I did. I said, “Sure!” and they happily filled one section of my garden. Well as I look back on my season that garden has done very well, especially compared to its sunnier counterparts. Can I say for sure that the decaying leaves and mulch were the cause? Not for sure, but I know it didn’t hurt. So when I think about how many bags of shredded leaves we put to the curb instead of put in the garden every fall, I can’t believe it.
So my biggest tip for you… save money on leaf bags and put your leaves in your garden to decompose this fall. Shred them if possible to give the worms a helping hand as they are the ones breaking down the organic matter so that it benefits your plants. One big exception here is only use leaves from healthy trees. If the leaves on your trees have mould or tar spot please don’t add them to your garden. The 2nd exception is do not use leaves from a Black Walnut. The leaves contain juglone, which is toxic to many plants.
Aside from adding shredded leaves to your soil, adding other organic material like compost and manure is also beneficial. I have heard about a product called Nincompoop. It apparently goes down like mulch but feeds the garden like compost. I am planning on adding some of this to complement my leaves this fall.
Regardless of what you use, fall is the best time to feed your soil. So stop worrying about deadheading plants and focus on the soil. Trim back plants in spring. Turn your new soil, apply a layer of mulch and you are good to go by May long weekend!
Photo courtesy Country Life Website