How to gather leaves for mulch
One of the best things
about leaves as mulch is that they're totally free. If you live
in town and pay attention, you can probably snag bags of leaves off the
curb on trash day during the fall. But if you're a rural dweller
like me, you'll want to head into the woods to find your mulch.
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One of the primary
purposes of mulch in the garden is to prevent weeds from growing, so
it's essential that you rake leaves from weed-free areas. Mature
forests (or yard trees over manicured lawns) are your best bet --- our
younger forest areas are home to the invasive Japanese stilt grass, which I
don't want to introduce into my garden.
Look for dips in the
landscape and areas without a lot of understory growth for easiest leaf
harvests. The old logging road shown here tends to accumulate
leaves drifting down the hill, making it easy for me to scoop them up.
If you're able to drive
right to your leaf-gathering location, you'll probably choose to use a leaf rake and some sort of
bin to gather leaves. But if you're walking off the beaten path,
I've found it easiest to simply scoop leaves with my hands into large
duffel bags, compacting the leaves frequently so you get the most
leaves per trip. To save your back, gather leaves during dry
leaves are heavy.)
The partially decomposed
duff beneath this year's leaves might be worth harvesting too, as long
as you don't mind creating a slight erosion potential in the spot where
you stole the leaves. Duff is heavier than undecomposed leaves,
which means it's less likely to blow away in the garden, and it is
often full of beneficial mycorrhizae which will boost the growth of
your garden plants. However, if you delve into the duff, try to
pay attention and don't harm the critters living there --- I moved this
tiny salamander to the side with a handful of humus and covered him
back over so he wouldn't dry out.
More in a later post
about the best ways to use leaf mulch in the garden. Meanwhile,
what tips would you add about leaf harvest?