Another question from the group newbie... :)
Last year I purchased a shredder/vac/blower and shredded up all of our
leaves and put a nice thick layer on my flower beds. I've got
probably 4 inches or so on top of my main garden and I'm wondering if
thats too much. The garden includes mainly hosta, heuchera and a few
other shade perennials. I moved some of the mulched leaves out of
the way today and it seemed pretty damp underneath, we've had lots of
rain lately. Will this be a problem, is it too think or should I
just leave the mulch as is? I'm hoping it will be ok and it can serve
as a weed barrier.
Thanks in advance for your help!
As a general rule leaflitter is the most natural autumn & winter mulch, &
encourages the microorganisms that manufacture nitrogen. A healthy garden
will also love the fallen leaves that keep down winter-germinating seeds,
then turns into lovely leafmold by or during spring. Woodland gardens
which are permitted to recycle their leaves back into their own soil need
very little fertilizing to remain happy as all get-out.
On the other hand, an unhealthy or inorganic garden will
linevitably/eventually have harmful insect population explosions because
harmful insects adapt & bounce back more rapidly than do beneficial
insects. In such cases leaflitter can harbor an excess of harmful insects.
Or even in a healthy garden, if a droughty winter means the leaves never
did break down into leafmold, spring rain or artificial irrigation wetting
so many whole leaves in warming weather will make it ideal slug & snail &
So there are some cases when the leaves really do have to be taken away &
composted or put in black bags & stored until they break down into
leafmold. In most cases though the leaves are gotten off lawns & into the
gardens during autumn leaf-fall, & nature does the rest.
Four inches of mulch, however, certainly is apt to be too much, & it
might be nice to aportion all that mulch more thinly about the gardens. As
for keeping the ground moist underneath the mulch, that's generally a good
thing, it won't keep it TOO moist unless the soil is badly draining clay;
it just allows for water conservation. An inch or two would be a lot of
mulch but not too much unless you were hoping to germinate seeds in which
case soil would have to be churned to the surface mixing the mulch in.
-paghat the ratgirl
Get your Paghat the Ratgirl T-Shirt here:
I put about 6" on my vegetable garden each fall. I spread some bloodmeal on top
of that, and then put a tarp over it. When a warm, dry week of spring comes, I
pull off the tarp, and till it under. By the time I plant my tomato transplants
in May, I have a very loamy and fertile soil.
I couldn't imagine leaving that thick as mulch. It's not very attractive. And as
it settles when it gets wet, it would cut off any oxygen supply to something
growing there. I suppose if you fluff it up often enough that could be overcome,
but that sounds like a lot of work when the layer is that thick. If you have to
dig instead of rake to fluff it, it seems to me that it's a bit too much.
Leaf mould, and even shredded leaves, IMHO, make a great soil amendment. But I
think there are better things to use as mulch.
funny, I was just admiring mine yesterday, thinking it looked very
spring-like with the tulips and all poking thru.
Why do you say that? This isn't landscape fabric. Air will always get
suppose if you fluff it up often enough that could be overcome,
I find the 4-6" mulch added after freeze-up is gone by end-May, the worms
pull it into the soil.
On the contrary, it seems like the dream amendmenet. It protects my bulbs
through winter, prevents hot/cold swings, keeps the growing tips hidden from
freak cold spells, retains moisture, and gets completely incorporated into
the soil without being reworked by mid-Spring. What's not to love?
It's also free, and I keep it out of our overtaxed landfills.
I guess you didn't plonk me like you said you did.
I don't particularly find grey an attractive color for mulch, nor is the flakey
texture very attractive to me.
Landscape fabric allows air and water to pass. A matted layer of leaves,
shredded or not, does not.
Perhaps things are different where you are, but the places I put 6" of shredded
leaves on (my idle vegetable garden) still have 3"+ in spring. It's partially
decompossed, but mostly just compressed, and turning/turned into mould. And I
don't know of many worms that will come above the frost line in winter. If I
take a shovel, and try to poke through the layer, it's like trying to cut
through a thick rubber layer. That's why I till it into the soil, where it
becomes the greatest ammendment I could find.
On the contrary? You /agreed/ with me that shredded leaves make a great soil
amendment. As for a winter protection mulch, it's good, too. But a 4-6" thick
layer that's been matted down all winter and has turned grey and flakey is not
something that I can find dozens of better mulches than.
Shredded leaves absolutely do let water pass, I do this every year. I
find the look of leaf mulch far superior to anything else in a
perennial garden, and the vegetable garden benefits from a healthy
layer between rows to keep down weeds.
Ann, gardening in Zone 6a
South of Boston, Massachusetts
They're not as impermeable as you may think. And I don't even bother
But landscape fabric is horrible. Water passes, air does not. Bacteria and
microbiota do not. So what it gets you is nice dead soil.
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