Posted By Jonathan on December 4, 2013
What is Soil Conditioner?
If one thing defines this time of the year it is the simple leaf. They are everywhere! What do we do with them? Instead of purchasing a synthetic soil conditioner from the store, you could use all the leaves that nature provides to amend your poor soil. Put simply, a soil conditioner is something that brings soil into balance and harmony, which starts to exclude many items from the store in my opinion.
I know many people just throw leaves out, whether by garbage bag on the curb or burning them (which is horrible). I have said before how it pains me to see people throw out such nutritional gold. Leaf mulch is the best soil conditioner you can put in your garden simply because it gives you the best nutritional bang for your buck. I also talked about quite a few uses for leaves after you have mulched/composted them, but this year I am trying a couple of new things as well.
It was a giant pain in the butt stuffing all those leaves into bags last fall. On top of that, the chicken coop leaked water on them and half of the leaves started composting in the bags and were very heavy. The cherry on top came in the form of the actual bags starting to compost (they were decomposable plastic bags). It made for a very awkward time trying to use them this past year.
This year I thought I would try this!
Its much easier to just pile your leaves into one giant pile and leave it! No need to mess with bags. Make sure to pile the leaves in a spot where the wind won’t blow them away. Also put them relatively close to your gardening area. We put ours on the north side of our compost bins (which couldn’t hold any more leaves). Originally the pile was about 5 feet tall but has since broken down to about 3-4 feet. Its about 8 feet long too! Next year we are going to stir it up and use it to mulch any more beds we build as well as work into the soil. The leaves on the bottom will also turn into a very nice compost called leaf mold which will act as a soil conditioner for that area, so if we ever want to plant here later, the soil will be great.
We filled up one side of our compost bins. The other side will be used next year in our raised beds, since its been composting for about a year now. It has since broken down a bit, but it was up to the top. It’s amazing how much a leaf pile will shrink!
Again this year we mulched in our raised beds. It helped out the soil quite a bit last year and so next year should be even better.
Another use for leaves is to mulch around bushes and just for keeping weeds down. I put lots of leaves in our fruit garden each year and it has helped out with keep weeds down and will act as a soil conditioner around our fruit bushes. They need lots of organic matter due to the hard clay they are in.
Finally, a great use for fall leaves is for putting around any young trees you have. Not only will it protect them from cold in the winter, come summer the mulch will keep in moisture which is important for younger trees. Again, they will also serve as a soil conditioner. I put leaves around each of our fruit and nut trees and also our newly planted shade trees.
Mulching with leaves is also mimicking of how trees and plants grow in symbiosis in deciduous forests all over the world. All those leaves fall down and mulch the ground for winter, protecting the forest from hard temperatures and keeping in moisture. Leaves are natures soil conditioner. They can’t go to the store to purchase soil conditioner. Why shouldn’t we use the same thing? By using leaves as mulch, you actually start taking steps toward have a food forest by using a permiculture technique.
Autumn is my absolute favorite time of year simply because of the bounty that is provided after a long hot summer. That bounty certainly doesn’t stop with the garden. All those trees are serving up a plate of nutrients as well. You just can’t use them until next year!