The fall leaf colors are just past peak in the northern Catskills, but approaching their peak color south of Kingston. I am driving to Tennessee today and looking forward to seeing the Smoky Mountains as they place on their own show. The Appalachian region is even more diverse in numbers of tree and shrub types than we are, so this need to be a fascinating and stunning trip. John Burroughs wrote “How wonderfully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.” I have a friend who, like me, is a snowbird and he has currently returned to Florida for reasons I can not fathom. The Gulf coast of Florida is warm, green and warm, however there are no hillsides of sugar maples or red oak to delight our senses.Last fall, at
about this time, somebody from the yard hating, pollinator authorities, got on my case for suggesting that homeowners simply trim the fallen delegates prevent them from suffocating the yard. It seems that useful insects grow under the decomposing leaves all winter season, however the shredded leaves also feed the lawn, as they quickly decompose, launching nutrients that might otherwise be added with bags of chemical fertilizer in the spring. Leaving the yard clippings in location after each mowing can include as much as 10 pounds of 10-10-10 nitrogen fertilizer, per one thousand square feet, per season. A significant concern when using chemical fertilizers is the possibility they may merely wash away if we get a heavy rain. Overflow from these fertilizers is a severe source of contamination for bodies of water downhill ranging from streams and creeks to ponds and lakes. Shredded leaves don’t add to this issue at all.The fallen leaves may also be raked up and utilized to start a compost heap that can offer some “black gold” next year at this time. Compost piles are a sort of “vegetable lasagna” since they are made of alternating layers of various textured plant material. Usually, a thin layer of coarse plant product, such as thin, woody branches, is covered with a thicker layer of leaves, which may be covered with a layer of grass clippings, which may be covered with invested vegetable garden refuse. Toss in a handful or two of garden soil and repeat the process over and over, till the stack is as much as five feet high. There is no requirement to add any sort of “garden compost activator” to speed up the process. There are sufficient microorganisms in a handful of garden soil to make sure that decomposition will continue. Oak leaves offer a difficulty however, as they tend to mat down and do not decay as easily as maple or other tree types. If possible, shred the oak leaves with your lawnmower and only utilize thin layers of them.Ideally, in a couple of weeks, the pile will warm up to a steamy temperature level of 160 degrees, which is hot enough to pasteurize the compost. This need to kill most pathogens and weed seeds and you need to wind up with a black, sweet smelling material, with the texture of fine garden soil. If the compost pile should start to smell like ammonia, this implies that it requires to be turned, to aerate the contents. The pile will diminish by as much as two thirds over the next 12 months. By next fall, it must be all set to use to your gardens, after sorting it through a coarse mesh screen, like chicken wire. Some natural products, such as woody twigs, take a lot longer to break down than others so the “ended up” garden compost needs to be sorted from the products not completely broken down.You can add fresh veggie kitchen scraps such as potato or cucumber peels, banana skins, (not citrus peels) corn husks (not corn cobs) and even cooked remaining vegetables, however do not include any pasta, breads, bones or meat. These foods may bring in rats or bears to your backyard. Egg shells likewise take years to break down and must not be used. Prior to you even begin this process, make sure your regional municipality allows home composting. Some communities disapprove yard compost heap for worry of bring in vermin. If you like gizmos, and what gardener does not like garden devices, you can buy a compost tumbler bin that houses the compost. By toppling the contents, aeration is enhanced and the procedure continues more rapidly.You do not require to add any lime or plaster to adjust the pH either. Even acidic plant products, such as pine needles, seem to break down into compost that has a pH of near 7, which is neutral. The trick to successful composting is using the tiniest particle sizes possible, to enable more surface area for the microorganisms to feed on. As an Amazon Associate I make from certifying purchases.