On Today’s episode of Plain Gardening, Bill Finch of Mobile Botanical Gardens is encouraging YOU to be a Leaf Thief!
Bill says this time of year is among his favorites, because people bag up leaves and put them on the curb for him…it’s like a birthday present for your garden. This is how gardens are made, specifically how soil has been made for the last few billion years.
All kinds of leaves can be garden gold: pecan leaves break down quickly, oak leaves take longer but can make better soil, and magnolia leaves are great, too. Leaves gathered now will break down by this summer. And do you know what you have to do? Nothing. Throw them on the ground. No special bins or equipment required.
Bill’s formula for tomatoes is to make a pile of leaves 4 feet wide by 4 feet long by 4 feet high. In about 5 or 6 months, the leaves will molder down to lovely soil. Plant the tomatoes in what’s left of the pile (now mostly soil with organic matter)…no hoeing or tilling required. If you want to speed up the process, you can add a little cottonseed meal and stir the pile once in a while. No need for special chemicals or imported worms; all you need to do to attract earthworms is to ring thedinner belll, and thedinner belll is—you guessed it—the leaves.
This is something Bill has stressed in many episodes of Plain Gardening: you need organic matter in the soil. If you’re not adding leaves to your topsoil, our hot and rainy climate will deplete your soil rapidly (actually, Bill said, “Your soil’s gonna go to pot pretty quick!”)
It’s not fall now, but along the Gulf Coast we have two leaf-falls, one in autumn and another—mostly live oaks—in spring. Bill amassed a dozen bags within a block of his house, and his neighbors did all the hard work of raking!
Addendum: yes, leaf-stealing is legal, as long as the leaves are in bags and on the curb for pickup.