The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Leaf mulch - One season later

Last fall, I raked leaves out of the woods to cover nearly all of my vegetable garden beds.  My hope was that the leaves would keep weeds from growing over the winter, expedite spring planting, and also rot down to fertilize the soil.

Un-mulched garden bed covered with weeds


Those leaves seem to have done their weed-killing job admirably.  The photo above is a bed which didn't end up getting mulched --- it's now completely covered with dead-nettles and chickweed.  The bed below was mulched --- notice the bare soil where I raked the leaves back to give me a spot to plant poppies.  The soil under the leaves was also unfrozen and I glimpsed a spider scurrying around, which is in stark contrast to the lifeless permafrost atop the un-mulched bed.

Bare soil under leaf mulch


I was a bit disappointed to see that the leaves hadn't decomposed much at all, but in a way that's a good thing.  We'll add manure before planting to boost the fertility of the soil, and will push leaves back around plants once they come up to keep the weeds at bay.  I can already feel the year's weeding being cut in half.

Check out our homemade chicken waterers --- they keep the water POOP-free!


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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.



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Hi, We have been raking leaves on our garden for years and in the spring as I go to plant I rake the leave and compost them - figure I'll add the completed compost later. Seems to work well - more work though.

Comment by Anonymous Fri Feb 19 11:59:38 2010
It is a bunch of extra work, but I'm hoping the leaves will actually make less work in the long term. I sure spent a lot of time weeding last year... :-)
Comment by anna Fri Feb 19 16:09:14 2010





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