| Fall leaves (photo courtesy of Ken Feil)
It is that time of year when we see the vestiges of the beautiful summer shade from our trees strewn about the garden. It is also that time of year when we hear the thrum of engines from leaf blowers creating flurries of this fallen gold as it is rounded up into heaps and carted away.
What's that you say? Gold carted away? Fallen leaves make amazing mulch (for that matter, so do pine needles in moderation). If you have deciduous trees in your garden, you’ll find this gold at your disposal each fall. If falling leaves are unavailable to you, your neighbor may be willing to share their wealth. Just be certain the leaves are healthy to prevent carrying diseases forward into the spring.
Thick layers of these healthy shredded leaves (a job that can be accomplished with a lawn mower) placed under shrubs and trees can provide warmth to the root system and help protect tender plants from winter cold. As this leaf mulch breaks down further, it also will add nutrients to the soil. Another option is to add the leaves to your compost piles and intermix them with layers of nitrogen-rich, “green”-type material such as the clippings from your lawn, coffee grounds or vegetable plants as they complete their fruit production. The leaves are the "browns" needed in the compost that feed the microbes that, in turn, enrich the soil. Typically a good recipe for building the compost pile is four parts brown (carbon) to one part green (nitrogen). Stir in some water and air by tossing the materials, add time and patience, and wait for the result. The results are rich compost from the "gold" that almost disappeared into the green bin instead of back into the garden!
And speaking of time ... Remember before going to bed on November 4 to change your clocks back. Yes, it is that "fall back" time of year. Did you remember to add your irrigation controller clock to the list of clocks to adjust? In fact, while you are setting back the clock, replace the battery if your controller is equipped with one for its back-up power supply. This is also an ideal time to dial back the runtimes and prepare to turn off your irrigation system, since the rains are almost upon us. Just remember our plants are in a dormant state right now and do not require the water they need during the growth season of spring and summer. And while you are at it, this might be the perfect time to install a rain shut-off device that will automatically shut off your controller if we have an effective rainfall.
With all that said, this gardener needs to grab a rake and pitchfork and toss compost piles!