Oh fine, here we go with another story about leaves. Just what every red blooded Yankee wants to hear about this time of year, right? And by Yankee, I mean anyone who is far enough north to enjoy the massive seasonal leaf gathering festival we call “fall.” Each year, Mom Nature paints the landscape with the beautiful autumn hues we’ve grown to know and love. These days, the leaves are already busy sninkeling (huh?) down from the trees. Yes!! You can even hear the “sninkel-sninkel-sninkel” of the leaves whispering in the wind, and then they fall to the ground and rustle about in good sninkely singing songs. In fact, as this is being written you could even say they’re in full-sninkel!
Or maybe I could just say that…
Anyway, when the leaves have completed their sninkelization, if they don’t get removed from the lawn, well, the lawn changes a bit. Once upon ago I would rake all the leaves onto a tarp and then gather the corners to play Leaf Dragging Santy Claus and haul them to the garden. These days I cheat and use the bagger on my lawn tractor. Takes a lot of trips but it chops them up nicely so I can dump the bags on the planting beds. For the garlic bed I actually till several dumpings of sninkeled leaves into the ground and plant the cloves before the snow comes. After planting, another layer of chopped leaves is added as cover to slow the effects of winter’s cold breath, and also to keep weeds in check when the snow is gone. Takes a while for the cloves to start rooting, and as they do the worms and soil microbes are busy making food for when they emerge in the spring.
Other planting beds will get layers of leaves that will remain throughout the winter to act as “sheet composting.” This practice builds the soil nicely because worms, microbes, and other creepy-crawlies enjoy the food I’ve laid down for them. To show their appreciation, worm manure and other byproducts of leaf digestion (made by the microbes and other creepy-crawlies) make very healthy soil for the vegetables I’ll be planting in the spring. And yes, as my vegetable plants get going I’ll mulch with leaves too; as they help the soil retain moisture, control weeds, and add nutrients as the aforementioned helpers break down the leaves that touch the soil.
We have mostly maple leaves… but when I’ve been a good boy and cleaned up all the leaves from the trees at our house, I actually go hunting for more. As you may have guessed by now I’ve learned long ago that leaves are probably the best fertilizer you can get. And they’re FREE!! And hey friends, there are no such things as bad leaves for the garden. There seems to be an old myth floating around that oak leaves are bad for the garden. To this I say, “Phoeey and Bibble Dee Boo!!” It’s simply not true. Yes, oak leaves have some acidity when fresh. But adding them to the soil actually produces a very beneficial result due to several factors, including: a) oak leaves are high in calcium, 12) oak leaves contain good amounts of nitrogen, and X) earthworms LOVE oak leaves.
So my friends, I hope you can all try to enjoy sninkel season. Not only is this a beautiful time of year, we get free fertilizer too!! This week’s video shows some of the exact ways creatures of Nature enjoy Autumn.