Tag Archives: Leaf mold

Even Gardens Get Blankies – Time for Mulch

2015-10-20 CD rake and leavesOk, so I was pretty suspicious of the “let’s put down a blankie” idea for the garden before winter. If you have met me, you know that I am not the type of person who makes my own crackers. I buy them. In the garden, I will do fussy things but only if there is a good reason to do it. I resist babying plants and I resist doing things in the garden that make humans feel better rather than make an actual difference in the garden.

As I read studies about using winter mulch, I realized that the reason for mulch is not the COLD per se – the problem is temperature fluctuation, often from the sun’s rays. Cold is cold. The goal of bed covering in winter is not to stop freezing – it is to minimize the top layer of soil from warming up and cooling down. This freeze-thaw action forces smaller plants up and dislodges them from the soil surface. Now vulnerable and stranded, the plant’s roots dry out. (Ok, so I feel a little sympathy now …) Warming soil during midwinter thaws can also encourage plants to come out of dormancy in addition to being popped out of the soil surface by plummeting temperatures.

To assist your perennials (or more recently planted small shrubs) this winter, shade the soil around them to protect against the sun heating up the soil. Snow cover is the best winter insulator but is undependable – once we get snow, lightly push snow back onto beds when you can. Before the snow comes, we recommend adding 2-4 inches of chopped leaves, pine needles, salt marsh hay or sterile straw over the crown of the perennials and around the root zone after you have cut the perennials back and after temperatures are staying consistently in the 50-40F range.

More than just a comfort object, your garden’s ‘blankie’ of winter mulch will help keep it snug and minimize winter damage. Let us help you put your garden beds to sleep before the snow flies!

Mulch…it’s a texture thing…

Contributed by Brian McGinn

The answer to whetheleaf mold pixr or not to mulch your garden beds is simply…YES! Adding a layer of mulch to your garden does many things: enhances soil nutrition by adding nutrients as it decomposes (reducing the need for fertilizers), reduces the amount of water that evaporates from your soil (reducing the need to water), acts as an insulating layer on top of soil (which keeps soil warmer in winter andcooler in summer) and also keeps weeds down; and the weeds that do grow are much easier to pull (less tedious work! and less need for herbicides).

But few of us think about these scientific reasons for mulching.  In practice, we like the “finished” look that it gives our garden beds. You may like a particular color of mulch – brown, red, black.  For others, it is a “texture” thing.  We are just used to seeing bark mulch with its chunks and particles as a foil for the drama of the plants.  At CD & Co., we recommend natural pine bark mulches that have not been color enhanced or artificially dyed.  But more and more we are turning to leaf mulch.  It means altering your aesthetic vision of a “well mulched bed”.

If you are in the woods and push away an area of leaves, underneath you’ll discover a layer of a crumbly brown material with a very pleasant and earthy scent…this is nature’s leaf mold.  Leaf Mold or Leaf Mulch is a naturally occurring product made from partially composted leaves that have been shredded.  Shredding the leaves in the fall allows them to compost more quickly due to increased surface area for fungi to do their work.  The result is mulch that has a rich brown color with a texture very different than bark mulch. It is more finely textured and uniform than bark mulch.

I remember my first garden experience working with leaf mold.  The garden had benefitted from a yearly layer and the beds were bursting with amazingly vigorous plants that needed no extra fertilizer and required limited weeding.  Aesthetically, it may look different but it’s well worth the benefits to your garden!

We have great local suppliers of quality leaf mold.  Let us amp up your garden for a new look.

Improve your soil with a Fresh Coating of Leaf Mold???

improve your soil - earth day - 4-17-14

With the snow long gone and temperatures warming up, we look ahead to our national holiday, Earth Day, on Tuesday, April 22nd. For almost half a century now every April 22nd has been about celebrating the Earth and trying to make our environment more healthy and sustainable.  But, do we ever really think about the Earth part of it?

Traditionally April is the time where we go out into the landscape to plant annual flowers, sprinkle some fertilizer, spread some new colored mulch, take a deep breath and think ‘I did my part for the year’ with a certain sense of satisfaction.  But have you ever wondered if your efforts are really helping to improve the Planet?  How do your customary efforts affect the billions of organisms that live beneath your feet?  What is the connection between our gardening efforts and the fungi, nematodes, bacteria, protozoa teeming in the soil itself?  It is this cast of characters that our planet depends on to function on the most elemental level.  It is the microbes that make food or nutrients available in the soil for plants to absorb and, without this food, plants wouldn’t survive; and without plants, we would have no oxygen to breath.

So all the more reason to get out there with that synthetic fertilizer that is available in big 50 lb. bags at any home improvement store and feed your plants, right? WRONG! Those synthetic fertilizers are actually doing far more harm than good to your soil and the billions of organisms that call it home. The synthetic fertilizers directly feed your plants and harm the soil. It causes a disruption in the soil ecosystem that upsets the balance of the organisms. Once the balance of soil organisms is off kilter, your plants get hooked on the synthetic fertilizers. The chemicals actually kill the organisms and your plants become more susceptible to disease, poor growth, and long term problems.

Thank goodness there is an Earth-friendly way to give your soil the nutrients it needs instead of sprinkling synthetic fertilizers.  You will be amazed at how nature works because this magic additive is leaves. Leaf mold, or leaf mulch as it is sometimes called, is chocolaty brown, sweet-smelling, moisture-retentive mulch. It is nothing more than crumbly brown material with a pleasant, earthy scent made of partially decomposed leaves. It provides your planting beds with plenty of nutrients, helps retain moisture and is even said to boost the health of the soil so much that it can help prevent certain weeds and diseases much better than with standard bark mulch. And it doesn’t contain the questionable chemical dyes sprayed on all colored mulches.

You won’t find leaf mold in stores and it’s even hard to come by through retail nurseries or mulch suppliers. Fortunately, leaf mold can be made at your own house with some space for composting, a little bit of patience, and all of those leaves that you rake in the fall.  If you don’t have the space to make your own, or want our help, we can bring some by so you have the healthiest natural landscape around!