Lebanon Reporter

Commentary

November 28, 2006

Leaves, pine needles good compost, mulch

We have enjoyed some great weather the past week, but it’s coming to an end soon. So, take some time to get those last lawn and garden chores done now, or you will be looking at those tomato cages in the garden all winter, like I usually do.

I always seem to find something more interesting to do than clean up the vegetable garden. Things like blowing those fallen leaves away with a 20-hp John Deere tractor. You could insert the Tim Allen more power noises here. Or perhaps, call it a man-law; no raking of leaves. Blow them away with a big mower.

Some people think oak leaves and pine needles are too acidic for a mulch or as ingredients in a compost pile. However, the truth is that oak leaves and pine needles won’t make your compost pile and soil too acidic. Both of these plant wastes have a minimal effect on the pH, or, acidity level of the soil, according to Penn State and other university specialists. Because of high soil pH in central Indiana garden soils our plants would even benefit from the addition of acidic materials such as sulfur and aluminum sulfate. Do not add lime to your garden soil or compost pile.

Pine needles make excellent mulches in flower and vegetable gardens or around trees and shrubs. Down south, in Georgia and other states, bales of pine needles are sold for mulching. A three- to six-inch layer helps prevents weed growth. Mulching with evergreen needles also helps to conserve soil moisture, adds organic matter, and prevents erosion.

Oak leaves are very tough and break down slowly. Shred the leaves with your lawn mower or shredder to speed up decomposition. You can till shredded leaves right into your flower or vegetable gardens yet this fall if the soil isn’t too wet. These leaves will decompose over winter, improving the soil for next season’s garden. Shredded leaves also make excellent mulch. You can also add the shredded leaves to your compost pile.

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