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Ann Cantelow's Home
Ann Cantelow's Home
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2912 6th St, Boulder, Colorado, US
Climate zone:
Cold Temperate

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Ann Cantelow's Home

Ann Cantelow's Home

Boulder, US

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Leaf Mulch Adventures, and Other Updates

Project: Ann Cantelow's Home

Posted by Ann Cantelow about 9 years ago

I have been collecting many bags of leaves from the neighbors.

Collected Leaf BagsThis last autumn was my second year collecting bagged leaves left out by neighbors for trash pickup. In 2013 the count was something over 130 bags collected. This year I had more experience (and kept a better count), got up to 254 bags plus a pickup load from someone I saw loading clippings to whom I offered my yard as a more convenient dumping place.

In 2013, I got most of my area covered with leaves to a depth of about 3-4 in/7-10 cm. In 2014, got the entire 330 sq meters/ 1/12 acre covered with 4-6 in/10-14cm. Leftover Halloween pumpkins, when found, are a nice bonus! There were less pumpkins to be found in 2014 than 2013- here's hoping the neighbors are becoming alert to the possibilities of composting them.

My job now with the mulch is to scare up good nitrogen sources. I have about 20 pounds of vetch and clover seeds ready to go out in spring once the leaves have had a chance to pack down a little. The fava beans and clover that I planted in 2014 to take advantage of the 2013 mulch seemed to be quite happy. Fava beans are delicious!

Part of my place is an enclosed yard that is about 150 sq feet/ 14 sq meters that had an unfortunate slant that led water to drain out under a fence. That's now been made level with up to about a foot of leaf mulch at the low end. In another area, I rolled up all the empty leaf bags and put them under about 8 in/ 20 cm of leaves to make a new working compost area of about 50 sq ft/ 4.5 sq mm. This area is now level and will no longer just drain out to the driveway.

That area in steps:

Mulch area beginning

Middle  End


Back area mulching, about 3/4 done:

3/4 Mulched

A disadvantage of taking neighbors' leaves is that they are not necessarily organic. I consider the advantage to the soil of having them to outweigh that. Another disadvantage: if you have bought cute little plants from the nursery, they'll likely get covered up and lost. Also my irises didn't bloom last year, probably because they're now buried too deep. A tip: if you do this, bring along some plastic bags to put over the tops of the bags in transit; I didn't do this and got leaves spilled all over making a mess in my car.

Other Updates

Deer are a big challenge in this garden. I've got pretty good at making deer cages for plants out of welded wire fencing. For now, building a deer fence around everything is kind of beyond my skill level. I chase deer out of the garden whenever I see them; this seems to cut down their visits by about half. I'll be working on strategies in the coming year. I've come to the realization I can't cover every square meter with deer cages! And you end up using more fencing with deer cages- so, I'll have to do something.

For walkways, I've started using planks and various sizes of wooden stepping stones. I want the hyphae from fungi in the soil to be able to travel under the walkways if they want to.

And, I'm allowing weeds to work in the garden to break up the soil. In 2013, there was a lot of Mullein, but 2014 saw less of that. There was also a lot of what I think is a small knotweed. In 2014, the mullein and knotweed seemed to mostly disappear. Chicory with its pretty blue flowers was dominant in 2014. I needed to pull bindweed away from the deer cages every once in awhile.

I'll plant some willows in 2015. I want to add sticks and twigs to my leaf mulch for the benefit of fungi, so want to set up a coppicing regime and willows are good for this, I have read. There are some types of willows that are somewhat drought tolerant, will look for those for this semi-arid climate.

Change of Focus

I'm thinking more about improving my soil these days, have dropped most thoughts for now of producing much food. I'm taking my time, waiting til later to plant many vegetables. I have planted a number of fruit and nut trees, though. Also alders, mimosas, a pea shrub, and caring for volunteer black locusts, all for their nitrogen fixing help. And nitrogen-fixing bushes- mountain mahogany and false indigo. Planning to add several silver buffaloberry plants in 2015.

This is all very fun!

Last summer:




Comments (1)

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John Lee
John Lee : You can definitely continue improving your soil while still maintaining an increase in food production so don't give up on that front!

Almost all willows are drought-tolerant. The key is in properly choosing the growth habit your willow will take. Some willow (Salix) species throw sucker trees by the hundreds every year, whereas others are easier to manage, or simply manage themselves, as a tree or bush.

I learned this when researching willows as living fences.
Posted over 8 years ago

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