Nature’s Gift to Gardeners

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Natures Gift to Gardeners

You’ve heard the expression before; one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

And for me, that treasure falls from the sky like rain every year at this time of year. It lasts for weeks. Yet unlike rain, what lands on the ground stays there, accumulating more and more each day. Most dread this drawn-out event, while I relish it. And I would contend that what blankets my lawn and garden is nearly as vital to healthy soil as a soaking rain. Fall is in the air, the leaves are on the ground, and I couldn’t be happier.

To be clear, I don’t relish the work of clearing off those leaves any more than you do. But, I do have a deep appreciation for what they will mean to my garden and landscape a few months from now, and for that reason, I am happy to prepare the way. Where most people see leaf debris as trash, along with hours of raking or blowing, bagging and hauling, I see garden beds blanketed in rich organic compost. A little known fact is that leaves contain 50-80% of the nutrients that are extracted from the earth by tree roots. I will recycle this precious resource to replenish the soil and nourish all that grows within it.

As the leaves break down, I know earthworms will feast on them and then burrow deeper into the soil while leaving behind worm manure known as castings, thus adding even more valuable nutrients and oxygen while improving drainage in the process.

Beneficial fungi and bacteria will also assist in the decomposition process, consuming this raw leaf material and returning it in a nutrient-rich form that can be utilized by plant and tree roots more efficiently and effectively than anything man has ever created.

The shredded leaves I’ll apply around my garden beds, will quickly begin a transformation into composted organic matter that promotes the life of soil dwelling organisms which in turn fortifies the plants and trees to be more pest and disease resistant. And what makes composted organic matter really amazing is that no matter what condition the soil is in to begin with, compost will help make loose soil retain moisture and compacted soil drain better.

As much as I relish this gift of nature for my garden, I see another opportunity to justify their use in the name of environmental stewardship. By keeping leaves, grass clippings and other yard waste at home, we can significantly reduce overall landfill volume and cut down on methane gas, a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide’s contribution to global warming. Rather than viewed as unnecessary trash, these organic amendments could be going into our own gardens to enrich the soil while reducing pollution and the need for supplemental fertilizers and other unnecessary chemicals.

I’ve already started the ritual of shredding not only the leaves falling from my trees, but from my neighbor’s as well. What leaves I don’t spread into the beds, I’ll add to the chicken coop and hope I have some left to add to the compost pile. For now, I’ll take all I can get. It’s my organic fertilizer, multi-vitamin and soil conditioner all in one amazing package, it’s plentiful and it’s free and it doesn’t get any better that that.