By Melinda Myers
Gardening Expert, TV & Radio Host, Author and Columnist
Go green, or should I say, brown. Recycle fall leaves into compost, a soil amendment or a nutritious topdressing for the lawn. It saves time, improves your landscape and is good for the environment.
Shred fall leaves with your mower and leave them on the lawn. As long as you can see the grass blades for the leaf pieces, your lawn will be fine. Those shredded leaves will break down, adding nutrients and organic matter to the soil.
It is also a good time to make your last application of fertilizer for your lawn. Use a slow-release organic nitrogen fertilizer, like Milorganite, that won’t burn the lawn. Plus, the phosphorous is non-leaching, and recent research found when the micro-organisms break down this fertilizer, some of the phosphorous and potassium tied up in the soil is released for plants to use.
Northern gardeners with bluegrass, fescue and rye grass lawns can make their last application in late fall before the ground freezes. Those in the South growing Bermuda, St. Augustine and other warm-weather grasses can make their last fertilization about one month before the lawn goes dormant. That’s about the time of the first killing frost. Fertilizing later can result in winter damage.
Bag any leaves you don’t want to leave on the lawn, and dig them into annual flower and vegetable gardens. They will break down over winter, improving the soil.
Use any remaining shredded leaves as mulch on the soil around perennials, trees and shrubs. The shredded leaves help conserve moisture, moderate temperature extremes and reduce weed problems. And once decomposed, help improve the soil.
Still leaves left? Start a compost pile by mixing fall leaves with other yard waste. Don’t add aggressive weeds or those gone to seed. Leave insect- and disease-infested or chemically-treated plant debris out of the pile. Don’t add fat, meat and other animal products that can attract rodents. Moisten and occasionally turn the pile to speed up the process. Soon, you will have a wonderful soil conditioner to put back into your landscape.
Nationally-known gardening expert, TV/radio host, author and columnist Melinda Myers has 30 years of horticulture experience and has written more than 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening and The Garden Book for Wisconsin. She hosts the nationally-syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment segments, which air on 89 TV and radio stations throughout the U.S. Visit www.melindamyers.com.
From the Nov. 9-15, 2011, issue