By Rita Calvert, the Local Cook
From Greg Strella, head farmer at Great Kids Farm at the Bragg Nature Center, Catonsville, MD.
Mulching with chopped leaves is great, particularly if you have just planted garlic (as we have); perhaps over bulbs as well. And a technique home growers might overlook is using leaves to cover bare soil in the garden in the winter. This is an alternative to cover cropping. Just lay down a 6″ layer on your beds or pathways (anything that is bare) and pull it back in the spring when you’re ready to plant. Be aware that leaves will blow around in the winter, so if using in an open or windy area, consider mixing the leaves with wood chips, straws or other mulching materials to help keep them in place. If you have a standing crop in your garden, mulch under and around it without fear of leaves blowing away.
I’ve also added small quantities of leaves to compost (10-15% of the total pile mass) without shredding them. If you want to use leaves as the main carbonaceous ingredient in your compost, just shred them first by running them over with a mulching lawn mower.
We use leaves for animal bedding and to protect our figs for the winter…and never underestimate the value of raking a big pile and jumping into it with some good friends.
Ideally, I would run over them with my lawn mower, collect them or vacuum them up, grind them (we have an electric blower that does this), put them in a compost pile and let them rot for a year until they turn into leaf mold. THEN put them on or dig into the garden.
I have chopped them up and put them on top of the garden soil where they will break down slowly over the winter, which seems to work fine.
From Renee Catacalos, publisher, Edible Chesapeake Magazine
I’m sure I’m no expert on gardening, but in ‘my garden-my-neglect philosophy’ I have put leaves on the bed and let them sit there over the winter and then dug them in the spring. seemed to work fine and helps to keep down early weed growth I think.