The Fall Garden

        a lovely border, photo courtesy of Kramer tree dot coma lovely border, photo courtesy of Kramer tree dot com

           As we creep through Autumn, those falling leaves become an ever thicker blanket on your pristine lawn. Rather than merely throwing them out, it may be worth considering switching your woodchips out for shredded leaves.

            Woodchips are a staple in suburban landscaping, normally isolating each perennial in a sea of brown. They provide a rather formal appearance, and will blend in with the rest of the neighborhood`s plantings. That`s all well and good, but there are a few negative points about them. For one thing, a single layer of them will often bring uncomfortably to mind the smells of a dairy farm. For another, they decompose slowly, withholding valuable nutrients from your plants. They are also famous for frying plants in scorching Summers, letting water escape quickly from soil beneath and letting some heat build up beneath the chips. It can be expensive depending on which type of wood you choose, and to avoid disease in the chips themselves you usually have to buy expensive prebagged varieties as opposed to using your own.

            Though it comes in fun colors and will last forever, rock and crushed rock mulch has some significant drawbacks as well. Thought touted as ‘permanent mulch’, many gardeners refer to it as a permanent menace. It is even more likely to scorch plants than wood mulch, and provides no positive benefits to the plants themselves, including providing no nutrients. It also is almost impossible to remove if you ever try to change the layout of your beds, and has a tendency to migrate to the areas reserved for plants and making a harsh growing environment for your plant`s roots to work around. It is also usually the most expensive type of mulch, with granite and marble mulch reaching hundreds or thousands of dollars.

            Crushed seashells have many similar properties to rocks mulch. It is free (if you live near the shore), will decompose a bit slower than woodchips but much more quickly than rocks, and will acknowledge your lovely surrounds with flair. I think I would be rather silly to buy crushed shells or collect and ship them if you live any real distance from the sea or a freshwater source.

            Leaf mulch, however, has a lot of bonuses. It is very cheap, and you can mulch your own leaves rather inexpensively. Many municipal dumps and debris areas will give you free leaf mulch. I borrow a friend`s truck every time we get to this season, and I`ll pack it in two or three times so I have enough to cover my whole yard. (I have a lot of flower beds in my half acre yard!) Leaf mulch retains moisture and composts by the end of the season so you have free fertilizing properties built into the stuff. It works ideally in the temperate East and other regions that naturally have a lot of deciduous trees, while it may be a poor solution in the West. (Except perhaps areas covered in trees, such as Oregon`s forests.)

                  Next time you are considering what to do with those leaves cluttering up your picturesque landscape, you might consider shredding those leaves into a smart backdrop for your chrysanthemums and violets!

What are your money saving garden tricks?


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