A Home Inspector’s Weblog by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck

exploring homes and the lives in them around Houston

The Leaves Beneath Us

My wife and I have an ongoing argument each year over the leaves in our yard. She believes in recycling, but something about leaves irk her, so they go to the trash collector. I generally run them through the chipper to make them into a nice mulch. My chipper has a faulty switch, and I have a pile of leaves. I had to act fast if I wished to use these leaves for my garden. My compost pile was not an option, unless I could cut the leaves down. I found that leaves will mat in the pile, and they become harder to turn, and I wanted to simplify my garden work, or at least spread it over time to lighten the load on my back.

This was my solution, and I will have to tell you if it works, but I think that it might. I have used leaves mixed with peat and compost in pots for some root vegetables. Growing them in pots has been a big help. The plants grow larger roots, and they are easy to pull out. My reasoning is that mixing the leaves into the soil may be a good way to reuse the leaves.

I have dug up the bed that I wanted to to till anyway. When overturning the soil, I added the leaves. I know that this has a good chance of not working. I have read articles that argue against this, but I did not have any problems in the pots. Hopefully the organic matter will break down, but I will try to help this along by adding some compost to the bed soon.

Why would you want to do this? Aerating the soil is a good chore to encourage root growth. Healthy roots lead to healthy tops. I read recently that many farmers do not till their soils anymore. It prevents soil run off due to rain. It saves time, but it does cause a heavier reliance on fertilizers. I try as much as possible to avoid fertilizers, wether organic or inorganic. Over fertilization can harm plants, and I think it about those fertilizers flowing away with the water, and what will happen to them then. I am not against fertilizers, but it is just to easy to over use them. The leaves help create pockets of air for the roots, and eventually organic matter for the plants to feed upon.

Maybe you will not use your leaves in such a manner; however, you might want to consider pulling out that hoe in your shed to till the dirt, at least a bit. Tilling also helps retain water in the soil for the plants, as does mulching.




  Jan wrote @

When I can no longer fit any more leaves into my two compost bins, I just put them under my shrubs. They gradually decompose into leaf mold. It depends on how big the leaves are as to whether they need to be shredded, but I do not shred the oak leaves. I just layer them on and by mid summer they are all decomposed. My azaleas are doing well since I have been doing this the last four years. So you might think of doing this when you are pressed for time or your shredder isn’t working.

  frankschulteladbeck wrote @

Thank you for both of your comments on the two posts. I do not mind placing them directly into the beds, but the issue is the the appearance. I think that is my wife’s issue with the leaves. Even though she does not really see them, she knows that they are there. Shredding does help them break down sooner, and I also shred limbs, so the resulting mulch looks better than unshredded leaves alone. I thought this may be a good way to aerate the soil.

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