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

Using leaves as fertilizer

Sugar Maple leafAs you know, I'm obsessed with leaves at the moment.  I want to know which tree leaves break down quickly for use in my vegetable garden, which ones provide the nutrients needed by my fruit trees, and so on.

The scientific literature is full of intriguing answers.  Agroforesters in the tropics have been untangling the costs and benefits of using tree leaves as a fertility source for decades and some suggest that tree leaves can make up nearly 100% of the nutritional requirements of vegetable crops.  But no one seems interested in using tree leaves on a large scale in the U.S.  I can only assume that chemical fertilizers are so much cheaper than labor here that using tree leaves isn't worth farmers' while.

Can we apply any of the lessons learned in the tropics to our southeast U.S. garden?  This week's lunch time series will at least give it a shot.

This post is part of our Leaves for Fertility lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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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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