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Wally Richards
Wally Richardshttp://www.gardenews.co.nz
Wally Richards has been a gardening columnist for over 30 years. Check his websites - for gardening news and tips visit www.gardenews.co.nz. For mail order products visit www.0800466464.co.nz. Wally also has a gardening problem help line on 0800 466 464.

Gardening with Wally Richards: Autumn leaf fall

A reader from Southland emailed me this week and asked if I could write an article about what to do with autumn leaves.

For some home owners, autumn leaf fall is a curse, just another chore to rake them up and clear the gutters.

Autumn leaf news

For gardeners, leaf fall is a blessing and they gladly collect the leaves to make leaf mould. Leaf mould is excellent for improving soil, also as a lawn conditioner and mulch over gardens.

It can be used in seed raising mixes and potting mixes. Leaf mould is easy to make, its free with a little effort on your part and its a good substitute for peat moss in your gardens.

If you live in an area where there are hedgehogs and you would like to help them through the winter then leave any leaf fall thats under hedges and other out of the way areas.

The hedgehogs may use the places as hibernating sites over winter.

Also if you have bare vegetable or flower gardens either leave the leaves as a cover over the area or place a good layer over the gardens yourself.

Sprinkle garden lime over the leaves then spray them with Thatch Busta which will help break down the mat of leaves, getting the gardens ready for spring.

This cover of the leaves will prevent a lot of weeds from growing in the bare gardens.

Now to make your own leaf mould with what is left or what you can collect from elsewhere.

There are two ways to do this and one is much faster than the other.

The fast way is to lay some leaves over a flat area of lawn an inch or two thick and the with your rotary mower adjusted to the lowest setting run over the leaves with your catcher on.

Repeat this with another layer of leaves and so on.

When your catcher is ready to empty, open a black plastic rubbish bag and put a few handfuls of leaves and any grass clippings into the bottom of the bag.

Sprinkle over the leaves a handful of garden lime and then spray with Thatch Busta at 10 ml per litre. (If you don’t have Thatch Busta but have Mycorrcin, then use it at 15mls per litre).

Now add a few more handfuls of mashed up leaves and repeat the lime and spraying.

Press down when bag is full to compress the material and then you can add a lot more.

Finally when the bag is full enough to still be able to tie off, tie the top then with a small nail or thin blade screw driver punch lots of small holes all over the bag.

Toss the bag into a sunny out of the way area and leave for a month or so.

After a few weeks pick up the bag, give it a shake and put it back with a different side facing upwards.

Repeat this about every month or so.The bag will appear to have more space in it as the material coverts to leaf mould.

Within about 6 months you should have a lovely crumbly product that smells good.

The sprinkling of lime is important as the leaves that fall are acidic and you want them sweet so the bacteria will work breaking them down to mould.

The Thatch Busta or Mycorrcin is also very important as they supply the food that increases the microbe populations which speeds up the process.

The alternative method is to place the leaves into a rubbish bag without using a rotary mower to break them up.

Otherwise the lime and spray are used between layers and tied off as above.

This way will take at least twice as long to get your leaves into good leaf mould (say about a year).

Without the lime and Thatch Busta/Mycorrcin then about two years.

If you are not able to clear the leaves and are going to leave them where they fall, then the best thing to do after they have finish falling is to sprinkle some garden lime over them and spray with Thatch Busta.

Repeat the Thatch Busta spray every month or so to speed up break down.

If you haven’t planted your spring bulbs yet then you should get cracking now.

If you are planting a bed of bulbs then sprinkle the area with Wallys Unlocking the Soil, blood & bone and Wallys BioPhos.

Rake the products into the bed then plant your bulbs.Remember to place the tallest growing spring flowers at the back or if a bed in the open place tall growing ones in the centre.

The shortest growing will be in the front. Rather than having a bare bed for a while till the spring bulbs emerge, plant some alyssum and lobelia seedlings.

They will make a nice ground cover over the winter and a lovely back drop for your flowering bulbs. Don’t forget to protect tender plants from frost.

Spray with Vaporgard and if there happens to be two or more frosts in a row, night after night then cover plants with frost cloth or sack/newspaper)

Winter time plants hate wet feet but they may still need an occasional drink during periods of no rain.

Container plants not in the open will occasionally need a drink also; best to wait till they start to droop from lack of moisture then give them a small drink.

Plants like citrus trees in open ground that detest wet feet should be sprayed with Wallys Perfection to prevent root rots in winter.

Remove all mulches as they prevent drying of wet soil which causes root rots and diseases during winter.

Leaving mulches on the soil often leads to loses of plants that can’t handle wet feet.

If you are one that likes a bit of news on other matters then email me.

Problems ring me at: Phone 0800 466464
Garden Pages and News at www.gardenews.co.nz
Shar Pei pages at www.sharpei.co.nz
Mail Order products at www.0800466464.co.nz

Image Credt: Lina Kavaka

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  1. In many southern US states, civic bodies deliver the green waste to garderners free. Homesteading community is large in US whereas most of the lifestyle properties in New Zealand are just investment assets, and very few live on and as small farmers. Sad really.


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