Mother Nature's Free Mulch

I am a big believer that as gardeners we should be feeding the soil, not the plants. To support that idea, each year I add compost and mulch to my garden soil. The compost adds organic matter (i.e. food) to my soil that attracts the microorganisms I need to help my plants thrive. And the mulch keeps the soil moist while also suppressing weeds. 

I don’t have a compost area on my property so I end up purchasing compost from a local company. The same has been true for mulch in years past, but this year I decided to try a more natural, and less expensive, approach. You see, my garden is surrounded by numerous deciduous trees. Most of them are Big Leaf Maples, but there are a few Cherry trees and Alder trees in the mix. Although none of them are actually located on my side of the fence, the trees don’t seem to take note of man-made boundaries when they drop their leaves in fall. Here are some pictures of our yard as the leaves began to accumulate.

In past years this has meant a lot of leaf bags and overflowing yard debris bins left curbside for the city to pick up, process, and sell back to homeowners for a profit. This year I wanted to take advantage of at least some leaves myself! So I bought an electric leaf shredder. 

I have read that shredded leaves can be a great mulch but leaving them whole, especially the gigantic Big Leaf Maple leaves, can be detrimental to flower beds because they can form layers that keeps moisture from reaching the soil. In addition, a layer of whole leaves can take years to break down completely. So the leaf shredder was a must have for this project. 

The shredder is lightweight and was easy to set up. We were ready to shred in about twenty minutes. I bought some paper leaf bags thinking I would shred the leaves into them. It turned out to be easier just to use a 30-gallon garbage bag to capture the shredded leaves so I repurposed the paper leaf bags for collecting leaves.