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Vermont Garden Journal: Leaves

Toby Talbot
Once they fall, leaves can be used as a fertilizer, protective cover and an herbicide.

Now that the fall leaf color show is done, there's a lotta leaves dropped on lawns, gardens and yards. But instead of seeing them as a nuisance, look at them as an opportunity. Fallen leaves can be used as a fertilizer, protective cover and an herbicide. Here's how.

First of all, leave the leaves. If you only have a few inch thick layer of leaves on your lawn, run the lawn mower over them a few times to shred them. Shredded leaves are a favorite food for earthworms and other soil critters adding nutrients to the soil for your trees and grass. Research at Michigan State University has shown that a layer of maple or oak leaves left on the lawn inhibited dandelion growth. They found up to 80% fewer dandelions on those lawns compared to ones they raked the leaves off.

If you have a thick layer of leaves, rake some of them to make a leaf mold pile. Leaf mold is the lazy man's compost. Simply make a pile of leaves, enclose the pile with a chicken wire and let it sit for a year or two. Eventually it will rot into a rich compost for your garden.

Leaves are an excellent mulch, too. Chop up the leaves and use them in November to protect garlic, strawberries, roses and tender perennials. Don't use whole leaves because they tend to mat and collect too much water causing root rot.

Add leaves to your annual flower and vegetable gardens. Till leaves under now and in spring they should be decomposed enough to plant. Hey, if you have any other creative ways to use leaves, I'd love to hear them.

And now for this week's tip, store winter squash and pumpkins that you plan on keeping into winter in a cool, dry basement or room. Temperatures should be between 32 and 40F with humidity around 65 per cent. Squash can last up to 6 months under the right conditions.

Next week on the Vermont Garden Journal, I'll be talking about protecting young trees and shrubs. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.

Broadcast on Friday, October 31, 2014 at 5:57 p.m. and Sunday, November 2, 2014 at 9:35 a.m.

The Vermont Garden Journal with Charlie Nardozzi is made possible by Gardener's Supply, offering environmental solutions for gardens and landscapes. In Burlington, Williston and

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Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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