September 16, 2012

Leaves...A Little D.I.Y. On Mulching Not Bagging

 Fall time will be approaching soon and the leaves will be falling.

So your yard is full of leaves now. The natural thing is to just let them lay their and decompose. However the social pecking order of the neighborhood would look down on you as being lazy and call the city on you for degrading the hood.


You give in and drag your rake and bags out and start bagging. It came to me about 30 years ago that I am throwing away valuable compost. I used to get a magazine back in the late 70's called "New Shelter" that showed every year what to do with those leaves. So I have been doing this when I can since then.

So I say "Make Mulch, Not Bags" Besides you save money by not buying 50 bags or more, you don't fill up the land fill, and you have free mulch in the Spring.

It takes a little work but its better than trying to keep that bag upright as you stuff it full of leaves.

First you need some leaves. Its best to do this when the leaves are nice and dry.

I rake my leaves to my driveway or sidewalk into a long pile. A flat surface helps. If you are not near a hard surface, just a flat area will work in the yard.

This is when I pull out my 30+ year old electric lawnmower and start running over the leaves. Always think safety when you are using power tools. A lot of mowers can be set to be used in the mulching mode by covering the exit where material is thrown out. My mower has a flap in the back where the bag attachment goes. Of course you can use gas mowers however I like my electric mower because of no CO2. cheap fuel cost, and a lot easier to start. Just don't run over the cord.

They do make upright Mulchers/Chippers and I had one, but I spent more time unclogging it than mulching leaves. Being somewhat lazy, I found running over the leaves with the mower was simply easier and had the same result.  Keep running over all the piles until the leaves are chopped up fine. You may ask, why do you want to bother chopping the leaves up?  First it reduces the volume by half. Second, it helps speed up the decomposing process.

I rake up the chopped leaves back into piles and transfer them to the wheel barrel for a trip to the compose pile.

There are all different ways to make compost piles however that is another blog discussion. A short description of ours is that I have a two piles, old and new. The chopped leaves go into the new. In addition, all kitchen compost scraps, chicken poop, etc. go into the new. The key is rotating the pile every few weeks with a fork to keep it fluffed up and allow air to flow through. As it gets dark and finer, I then transfer it to the older pile.

In the Spring, new mulch goes into the garden. I mix it in with the dirt. In regards to proportion, it is usually 25% mulch and 75% existing dirt mixed well. I do not know the science behind this claim but it seems to make the plants happy. We tried to use mulchonly one time but did not have as good of results.

The rewarding part is eating healthy food from the garden that you made the soil richer by chopping up a few leaves. I think that is what they mean by big words like sustainability.

Also sharing food with the neighbors will raise your level in the pecking order.


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