Friday, October 19, 2012

Beautiful Color Now - Beautiful Color Later

     Fall is a beautiful time of intense color.  That color permeates your impressions of every aspect of your life during this season.  First is the intense blue of the sky on a clear day and the amazing shades of gray as storms roll through.  Dawn and sunset colors somehow seem to become more intense during this season as well.  The greatest amount of color is obviously from the color change happening in the leaves of trees and shrubs.  This is a daily change and creates a sense of excitement because the landscape changes daily during this season.
     Not only do the colors change, but the quantities change as well.  Leaf drop begins in late summer with a small percentage of leaves, especially those from trees with larger sized leaves like poplar, dropping in response to decreased levels of available water.  The heat from the summer causes trees to utilize more water from the soil with increased metabolism and to lose more of it to transpiration and thus there is a water table level drop in the soil regardless of the amount of rainfall.  This leaf drop is further enhanced when the days begin to become noticeably shorter.  Thus by mid October, regardless of the temperature, there are a good 10-20 percent fewer leaves on the trees than there were in mid summer.  As October progresses, there is a noticeable daily loss which is further enhanced with the first and then subsequent frosts.  As a result, the forest canopy changes daily by mid October adding to the daily interest of the season.
     Coincidentally, this leaf drop just happens to occur at just the right time for fall mulching.  It also just happens that for a good many of your mulching needs this is just the right material to use.  Mother nature provides just what you need when you need it if you let her!  This is the perfect stuff for mulching most of your tree, shrub and flower beds.  I recommend raking your first flush of leaves - which also happen to be the ones from trees whose leaves break down the most easily right into your beds.  Don't hesitate to place a nice two inch layer evenly around  your shrubs and trees.  For those people who do not like the look of leaves, you can place an inch and a half of leaves and cover it with a half inch of mulch of the type that has the look that you prefer.  Remember to check in a week or after the first heavy rain to see what your actual mulch depth might be.  It will compact as the leaves flatten and begin to break down.  You might actually need to add more and it is easier when it is readily available.
     For roses and other flowers and vegetables that are highly susceptible to fungal issues, do not try this method.  Leaves raked straight from the lawn into the bed will only act to increase your mold and fungi issues.  For these plants, you can still mulch with your own leaves, but you will need to let them go through the processes of composting first.  In many cases it is just easier to use sterilized mulch instead.
     The second wave of leaves, the ones that are predominated by oak leaves, are still important and useful.  I recommend that you not use them right away.  Place them aside to compost over the winter months.  They will make the perfect black mulch for your bedded areas next spring when you will be wanting and needing to replenish the mulch.  They will also provide a wonderful black compost for your lawn areas.  Use the most broken down of the compost on your lawn as a spring additive and the least broken down in your beds to enhance the mulch layer.
     Nothing that your land produces needs to be hauled away as it is all useful in its own good time!

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