In the Garden:
Lower South
December, 2001
Regional Report

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These golden leaves can be turned into "black gold" for the garden. They make great soil-enriching compost or a protective mulch.

Turning Golden Leaves to "Black Gold" for the Garden

The annual deluge of leaves has begun, a sure sign that fall has fallen upon us and what we call winter here in the south is just around the corner. We are now in the middle of yet another "leaf season". Before you head outside with rake in hand let me suggest a few time- and money-saving ideas I think you'll find very useful.

How about if we start with a Madison Avenue "infomercial" advertising approach:

Tired of long hours behind a rake cleaning up after messy trees when you'd rather be inside watching the latest game or checking out the holiday sales around town? Looking for a fast, easy way to remove fallen leaves without the fuss of raking and bagging? Want to save $$$ on fertilizer, trash bags and "store bought" mulches? Interested in an organic, 100% natural plant fertilizer that's absolutely FREE!? Yes, you heard it right...FREE!!! Want to get in on the ground floor (literally) of a national trend in lawn care sweeping the country?

Then look no further. The latest (and oldest) innovation in fall landscape cleanup is available now. Send no money...operators are not standing by...and you won't get a bamboo steamer or set of steak knives thrown in with the deal, because this is not an offer of a new product but of a "new" way to recycle your landscape wastes at home and turn trash to treasure while saving time and money! Read on for the how-to details.

The Natural Cycle

Those leaves our trees discard each year are dropped for a purpose, to protect and build the soil. Leaves contain most of the nutrients a tree took up during the season. The natural cycle of leaves was designed to provide protection for the soil and nutrition for the roots. Leaves on the surface mulch soil to deter weeds, reduce erosion, improve infiltration of rainfall, prevent surface crusting and moderate soil temperatures.

Invigorate Soil Organisms

As leaves decompose they invigorate the living organisms of the soil, improving nutrient levels, soil structure and drainage. With the addition of this organic matter, sands hold water and nutrients better while clays develop better aeration and drainage.

Many Uses in the Garden

Each year we recycle all our tree leaves, plus over a hundred bags from the neighbors, into garden gold, or perhaps I should say "black gold." When you get into leaf recycling you just can't seem to get enough. We use the leaves throughout upcoming year in a variety of ways. Some are saved for mulching the summer garden. Others are composted for use in potting mixes and to build new soil beds. Some we mix directly into the soil to break down over winter months. By spring they are mostly decomposed and the enriched soil is ready for planting. Each year the soil just gets better and our gardens more productive.

Don't Rent Fertilizer

Whatever methods you use, those fallen leaves are worth their weight in gold for your landscape and garden. They are full of the nutrients your trees took up all season. If you bag leaves for curbside pickup, you're just "renting" fertilizer, not buying it! Whatever method you choose, put those leaves to work for you. They are free, organic, slow-release fertilizers -- the way nature was designed to work.

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