This is a journal of my vegetable gardens. Skippy was my first dog and he thought the garden was his, even though I did all the work. Now Suzie and Charley follow in his footsteps. We're located near Boston (USDA zone 6A). I have a community plot, a backyard vegetable garden, fruit trees, berry bushes, chickens, and bees. I use sustainable organic methods and do my best to grow all of my family's vegetables myself.

Monday, November 15, 2010

raking leaves - the importance of leaf letter and hand rakes

rake 093

My giant maple tree is rapidly dropping its leaves this week - as are all of the other trees in my neighborhood. I am very pleased this year because I think I have been hearing fewer leaf blower and more (swwooch swhoosh) hand rakes. Yeah!!! Raking is such a great way to get exercise, enjoy the fall, check out the yard, relax, hang out with the birds, get some sunlight, etc etc. My son is doing a lot of our raking this year, because he seems to need lots of cash and is OK with the rate I pay.

The raked leaves go right into the gardens that border my yard. I will remove them in the spring. Leaves are a perfect natural mulch. My friend Victoria sent me a great article recently about the benefits of using leaves on your gardens. It was from a Grow Native Cambridge newsletter and titled "The Importance of Leaf Litter". Here's are some excerpts:

... as we now prepare our gardens ... for winter, I thought we might reflect on our rather odd and somewhat recently adopted tradition of removing all leaves from our gardens and urban landscapes. It turns out, this is not a particularly ecological or wise thing to do...Numerous species of butterflies overwinter in leaf litter -- either as eggs, larvae or caterpillars, or in their pupal state....Leaf litter is an important part of the soil food web. It provides habitat for numerous insects, spiders, and other invertebrates. It is this balance of many different insects, and of predators and prey, that helps prevent outbreaks of isolated species of insect pests. And all these insects in the leaf litter provide important food for birds. Leaf litter is also habitat for salamanders and toads, and for other larger predators that control insect pests.-Claudia Thompson, Director, Grow Native Cambridge

Here, here!! The leaves look really nice in the gardens, too.



Blogger biobabbler said...

ooh, a genius plan. I'll have to do that!

In the last week we've twice put oak tree litter into the chicken runs 'cause they LOVE kicking that stuff around, looking for bugs, while I know they're not easy pickins for bobcats, as they would be actually under said oak. Thanks again for a great idea and reminder! =)

November 15, 2010 11:30 PM

Blogger meemsnyc said...

I spent hours raking leaves today. This is a great excerpt of the article. I had no idea that there might be catepillar eggs in the leaves. Good to know!

November 15, 2010 11:40 PM

Blogger Madame C said...

I totally agree! We do not rake leaves anymore! Our garden is rather windy and most of the leaves are blown by the wind off the lawn and into the roses and perennials! Perfect and ecological:)
Take care,

November 16, 2010 3:06 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have noticed the huge push this year among the English garden bloggers I read to leave parts of the garden untidied and mounds of leaves and brush somewhere in the garden. Much more so than on this side of the Atlantic! I guess it is the difference in the scale of the landscape, but I don't see why what the experts are telling them over there about the necessity of this for wildlife of all sorts doesn't hold true here as well! Thanks for the post!

November 16, 2010 9:14 AM

Blogger Flowerpot said...

Hi! I just discovered your lovely garden blog . I will pop back from time to time to see what your up to .Great fun isn,t it ? ! :) Debbie

November 16, 2010 12:57 PM

Blogger Kay said...

In my old college town an old woman had the most beautiful vegetable garden ever- she only had a small fenced in area next to her house but she used the space so well! She also used leaves to cover her entire garden and she tilled them right into the soil, it looked so rich. I'm doing the same this year, I covered my gardens with a few feet of leaves and I'm planning on tilling it in this spring!

November 16, 2010 7:32 PM

Blogger kathy said...

Glad to hear support for raking!

I think its better to compost the leaves a year in a pile, then add them to the vegetable garden the next year. Composting fresh leaves in the soil can deplete nitrogen. But its great to leave them on top of naturalized garden beds with rhododendrons and other bushes and perennials. I rake them off my flower beds in the spring because the daffodils have trouble coming up through the leaves. I pile them into the compost bins in the spring and have beautiful compost in a year or two.

November 17, 2010 12:16 AM

Blogger Diane said...

Kathy- Glenn put a bunch of dry leaves in a trash barrel and then weed-wacked 'em and we now have a wonderfully textured soil conditioner-we'll turn it in the beds this weekend. It worked great- got the idea online somewhere...Diane

November 17, 2010 9:58 AM

Blogger kathy said...

A great idea Diane! A couple years ago we tried using a leaf blower that was advertised to grind leaves with an attachment. Well, it didn't work well at all. I'll have to try the weed whacker. If I could chop the leaves, I could leave them on the beds and the daffodils could come up through them!

November 17, 2010 6:56 PM

Anonymous John Craine said...

I use my electric lawnmower to collect and chop the leaves which are then added to my compost bin.

I would also advise against having too deep a layer of leaf mulch around or on top of plants you want to keep. The rodents love this stuff and come spring you will find their trails throughout along with the holes where they dug up your plants to get to the succulent roots.

November 20, 2010 8:34 AM

Blogger Karen Anne said...

I've tried this, but the leaves blow away...

November 28, 2010 8:39 PM


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