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Volume 15, Issue 45 ~ November 8 - November 14, 2007


Catching Falling Leaves

Put those leaf piles to work in your yard and garden

Think again before cursing leaves as they fall to the ground. Leaf litter works to your advantage. First, leaves are nature’s perfect mulch, yours for free. Second, leaves lure us outside for quality exercise in raking and moving them from place to place. To get the most out of your free annual supply of leaves, follow the Bay Gardener’s advice:

Pushing a foot or so of leaves under the branches of shrubs will do wonders for those plants. That foot of leaves will compress down to a layer less than half an inch thick by spring. So don’t be concerned about over-mulching as you mound leaves under the branches of shrubs and in the flower garden.

To keep leaves in place during the winter months, sprinkle compost or soil over them or scatter some small dead branches. Wet them down several times during the following week using a fine mist. Water will help compact the leaves, holding them in place.

If there are children in the area, invite them to jump and thrash around in the leaf pile. While they play, the kids are helping you with yard work. Ten to 15 minutes of active play will significantly reduce the size of the pile by grinding the leaves into smaller pieces.

Lawnmowers also do an excellent job of grinding up leaves. If your lawn has not been cut for several weeks, the mower will add grass clippings to the leaves, allowing them to decompose faster.

Use a thinner layer of ground leaves as mulch around shrubs, no more than six inches. A thick layer of leaf mulch on your garden will prevent winter weeds from infesting.

If you have more leaves than you can use as mulch, add them to your compost. When you place them in your compost pile, wet them down thoroughly and sprinkle a thin layer of compost between thick leaf layers of 10 to 12 inches. After the pile is completed, place a good layer of compost over the top and water well.

To turn your leaves back into soil, you’ll need energy. That’s an exercise bonus. Doctors agree that most Americans need more exercise in order to better control their weight and improve their health.

The raking of leaves requires strong shoulder and arm muscles to power the rake back and forth. Raking also gives exercise for the back and legs. As the piles of leaves grow, you need more strength — and greater energy — for the cardio-vascular exercise.

As you grow older, leaf raking may be too strenuous. At that point, you’ll either employ someone younger or purchase a blower. If you choose to purchase a blower, choose the most powerful unit. With a big one, if your neighbor happens to blow leaves into your yard, you will have the power to blow them back — along with some of your own leaves.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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