Under construction please pardon out mess
I look forward to Fall each year it is one of my favorite times of the year. Because it is the best time to set in the bones of your yard. Also the abundant leaves makes it a wonderful time to start building new beds and bulking up your soil. There is nothing I enjoy more than building soil. All you need is leaves and lot of them, mixed and chopped up with a little nitrogen, and they will break down it to the riches health black soil you have ever seen.
Fall leaves are one of the most important parts in improving chemically damaged or barren land. The following is how nature does it and how we should facilitate the process. Nature: starts with barren land, and she dusts in grasses and the broad leaf “weeds” they are adapted to the harshes living systems. With these grasses comes the natural floro and fauna of helth soil. Next to come are the shrubs with their quick growth, and ability to shading the ground and deeper roots systems they are able to outcompete the smaller plants for light, water, and nutrients. Shrubs will also start creating a tiny microclimates around them that facilitates greater populations of flora and fauna. By allowing Wind blown seed and leaves will gather around them plants futher adding to the organic matter of the soil allowing for more water retition. Trees are the last to occupy an area, by this time the soil is rich with the organic matter of the preceding plants. This process can take a few years to hundreds of years depending on the demands of the given environment. We can speed this process many times over by building soils with them annual discard of leaves mixed with a nitrogen source and a fungal innoculate.
Here I have to mention that there is to “GENERAL” types of soil. Fungal based and bacterial based. Fungal based solid have lots of carbon and low nitrogen levels and are preferred by your woody perennials. Fugal based soil also tend to be dryer then bacterial based soil. Bacterail based soils are high in nitrogen and moisture almost to the point of waterlogged. Once this soil drys a bit it becomes the preferred soil for by annuals and annuals vegetables.
Woody perennial like to have fungal based soil which means lot of carbon rich leaves and less nitrogen. To do this you will need
You want to build soil toward a fungal based for woody prennials. Which means lots of leaves and less nitrogen, also you will need to inoculate the soil with fungal spores. You can purchase the inoculate which will contain many of the beneficial fungi that you need, a little can go a long way here. Depending on how quick you want to build your soils.
For vegetable garden and annual beds I like to add Bokashi into the mix, but more on in my next blog post. For an area of raw depleted land that has nothing on it at all I start with added leaves that have been chipped down to the point that they are completely unrecognizable, this is going to be what hold moisture in place. Then add fast growing grasses such as annual rye and to start netting the leaves and the dirt to the area. Then you will need to add and deep root plants such as buck wheat this will begin the building biomass deep in the ground, which will help come drought time. Lastly for your fall mix is a good legume for nitrogen fixing, and all the chipped leave you can get. By the following spring the once barren patch of dirt will now be rich health soil ready for your favorite flowers. (When adding seed or new plants to any area Mycorrhiza fungi and beneficial bacteria should be added, this will help hasten the new plants establishment. We make Compost Balls specifically designed to assist with plant establishment and micro macro nutrient break down and uptake) Keep in mind that it takes nature thousands of years to build soil, by working with nature we can accomplish this in a years’ time.
When rejuvenating an old tired yard, I have at times gone out and gather leaves from all my surrounding neighbors to gather sufficient amount of leaves and considering that 3 cubic yard of chipped leaves and bottle of fish emulsion will by summer be reduced to 1.5 cubic feet of compost. To cover the average yard of 2000 square feet in 1 inch of compost you’re going to need about 12 cubic yards of finally chipped leaves and the equivalent nitrogen to about 4 bottles of fish emulsion. I have taken leaves and chipped a cubic yard of leaves down to a single cubic foot. If that ration holds for your leaves you’re going to ironically need about 324 cubic yards of unchipped leaves. This is why I say get and save all you can. Now that you have your flower beds covered in 3 inches of leaves and spring is on its way you will want to accelerate the composting cycle. There are several ways you can accomplish this, I like to take liquid fish emulsion and beneficial bacteria inoculants and spray them over the whole surface of my beds. I don’t worry about getting my ratios prefect for composting because my plants don’t need everything to compost all at once. Also I like to heavily mulch my beds in a cycle this seems to get things going at a nice clip.
A few caveats and funny stories
Keep in mind that trees will draw nutrients and chemicals from up from the deep, if you cannot verify that chemicals have not been used in that area for an extended period of time decades don’t use them on your vegetable garden. Instead use verified organic compost. On our website there is a list of soils we carry that are safe to use. We also rotate the composts that we use, place the same compost in the same area year after year can cause buildup of certain micro nutrients.
My wife and I were once referred to as one of “those” people; with the exclamation of “I have heard of people like y’all”. I felt a bit like a gyspy at that point I must say. I don’t think the person who referred to us in that way realized that with her leaves and about five other neighbors I was able to make a thick winter blanket for my plant and by the following fall it had turned into a high grade Compost. with a decent Macro and micro nutrient spread. I will tell you at his point my leaf stealing is one of the many reason I have not bought lawn fertilizer organic or otherwise in years except for high nitrogen sources for composting and specialty fertilizers.
Stuff I kicked out………………………….
The only time I like to do a total yard mulching is in the fall there are several reasons for this, one abundance of free bagged leaves (mulch ) I like to have thick layers ~3in. of mulch around my plants for winter protection and water retention. The second reason is that it the best time to put in the bones of a new bed it is also the best time to start preparing a new spring bed. As the leaves stat falling gather and chip them up into the areas that you are considering putting a bed or expanding an existing bed. This will allow you to visualize the beds. And if you don’t like where they are you can move it around without damage and of the plants below. . As you gather leaves for the new area you will need to chip them down as much as possible, I use a lawn mower set to the highest level. Once you have finalized the areas for new or altered beds grind all the leaves down to fin=e chips and scalp the grass in area as short as possible. If you are working in an existing bed, I find it best to leave the blade high. Continue adding leaves to the area until it is as3” thick… You may need to go gather them up from you neighbors. This amount of mulch will seriously reduce the number of weeds that will come up in the spring. And will reduce the amount of water required for you beds. You can use chipped leave to increase soil health in lawn also. You will need to make the layers thinner and it is best to chipped leaves almost
The composting comes as spring approaches this is the cycle of soil building and it all starts here for us. This year’s leaves will begin composting in the spring and be about finish in august just before next fall. In nature the process of soil building is way greater complexity and slow. We can facilitate this process with a little effort. Down to dust otherwise you could choke out you grass. Secondly keep in mind that chipped leaves need N to compost. In areas where I have chipped leaves over grass I add a pinch more N come spring. This layer of mulch will be left in place till very early spring.
Early spring you will mix this mulch layer with and organic nitrogen source and a compost activator. The nitrogen has to be organic for the compost activator to be fully effective. Several organic nitrogen sources are readily available from granular to liquid I personally prefer a liquid for new beds that I can used a lawn mower to mix and scalp any grass that may have survived the winter mulching and scalping. I used gradual a mixed with a dry activator in beds that have existing perennials that may be pushing up. Once you have built the layer of leaves up
But the effect is simple put amazing for they dominate the area each year they dig deep into the ground for nutrients and each year they self-mulch to keeps others from crowding them out. trees and shrubs prefer fungi dominated soil that forms after a certain level of biomass in accomplished. One of the families of fungi that tree and shurb to be present are the mycorrhizal. they will form relationships with this fungi, and effectively have a doubling of their root system. Keep in mind this is a dance one that you can join in with or attempt to do the waltz while hip hop plays on. More on the trees. As They draw nutrients up from deep within the earth and deposit in in theirs leaves which will coat the ground in fall. There is a good chance that the micronutrients in a single leaf may not have seen the sun in a hundred or more years. This something worth saving