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Mulching with black walnut leaves

Mulched grape vinesIn a 500 square foot trailer, you have to be pretty quiet not to wake up a guest sleeping on your futon.  As a result, I wandered outside into the morning drizzle to stay out of my cousin's hair.

Squishing through the mud, I found myself drawn to those big trash bags of leaves Mom and Maggie collected for me this fall.  Various sources on the web had admonished me to shred my leaves before using them as mulch, but when I began to shred them with the lawn mower a couple of months ago the mower exploded.  Nix that idea.  Instead, I decided to experiment with using whole leaves for mulch.  So I spread some newspaper around each grape vine then doused the root zone liberally with silver and sugar maple leaves.

I ripped into bag after bag, happy as a couch potato opening up potato chips, until I came upon the first bag of black walnut leaves.  Then the second, the third.  Yikes!  Time to scurry back inside and figure out what can safely be mulched with black walnut droppings.

About a year ago at a party, someone who seemed very knowledgeable told me that the juglone in black walnut parts is really only detrimental to germination, but an extensive search of the internet showed no sources which agreed with that assessment.  Instead, most websites agree that the juglone produced by walnuts messes with the metabolism of other plants, causing them to wilt and exhibit stunted growth. 

Some plants are tolerant to juglone in the soil, including onions (and garlic, I hope, since it's in the same genus and I used black walnut leaves on two of my garlic beds), beets, cucurbits, carrots, parsnips, beans, corn, and the Prunus genus (cherry, nectarine, plum, and peach.)  So I moved on to my nectarine, cherry, and peaches to use up the walnut leaves.  I hope my unshredded leaves work well as mulch --- I've had terrible luck in the past with wood chips (even well composted) and am in need of a free mulch that really does the job.



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