Compost leaves and sticks on site. This is the lazy person’s guide to highly effective gardening! Hooray! In the fall, you can simply leave leaves in the flower beds where they fall. For leaves that land on the lawn, mow them with a mulching mower and the ground up leaves will feed the grass. If the leaves seem too thick where they fall, spread them around before leaving them in the bed or mowing the lawn. In spring, you will find that only the top layer of leaves in your beds has not broken down; everything underneath has turned into nicely broken down mulch. If you want a tidier appearance and more nourishment for the plants in the beds, add a light layer of Swarthmore’s or Nether Providence’s fabulous leaf mulch. (Contact the borough or township offices for more information and payment.) When the lawn starts to grow again in the spring, the grass quickly covers up any visible bits of leaves that have not yet, but soon will be, broken down.
Sticks 1 inch in diameter or less are easily snapped into smaller pieces and can be tossed inconspicuously under bushes. Sticks will not break down as quickly as leaves will, but they, too, will slowly provide organic nourishment for your plants.
What’s the environmental impact of composting on site? First, you avoid the fuel-consuming process of vacuuming the leaves up, hauling them to the composting site, turning them over, and then trucking them back to the purchaser. Second, by creating nutrient-rich soil, your plants are healthier and grow more vigorously. Thus, they don’t need artificial fertilizers and are much less vulnerable to disease and pests. Accordingly, you make fewer trips to the garden center to purchase fewer products, manufactured and trucked from somewhere, to deal with your plants’ ailing health or to replace them.
Yes, but what does it look like if you let the leaves stay in the beds? They provide a textured, light brown cover for the beds. The photo above is of a part of this author’s front bed at 215 College Ave., Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.
Again, what’s the benefit of mulching? Thick mulch slowly feeds the plants, protects the roots from drying out in the hot summer, and protects the roots from being dangerously exposed by being heaved up from freezing and thawing conditions in the winter.
This is one of nine Green Gardening suggestions from the Swarthmore Horticultural Society, swarthmorehorticulturalsociety.org, provided by Kit Raven.