new house ,total shade, tons a leaves!!

wildbillgt(Z8 WA ST)November 7, 2004

Hi there, MY new house has established gardens with 100% tree canopy, Well, its fall and there is about three inches of leaves on the ground and only half are out of the tree! MY questions are:

1. Leaves alone dont make for very good mulch do they?

2.I am raking up the leaves, how clean do I need it, will the leaves decompose very well or will they be around next spring?

I have alot of work to do, the previous owner put down all black plastic to keep the weeds out which makes the area water impermeable, The summer time is hard on the plants so I will be pulling that all up and starting over for the most part. Heres a album of my old house that my wife and I landscaped, you can see there is almost no shade. And heres some picts from the new house.

Boy do I have a ton of ivy to take out, next springs going to be a workout!,lol!!

Here is a link that might be useful: My old house

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waplummer(Z5 NY)

Leaves do make good mulch. Why buy anything when you have so much available. They are slow to decay unless you chop them up. I have a ton of leaves from my trees and 99 44/100 percent of them have been distributed on beds, woods and banks. Yes, get rid of the black plastic, the leaf mulch may still permit weeds to grow, but they will be easy to remove.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2004 at 2:26PM
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Leaves make an excellent mulch, in fact folks have been known to pay good money for processed leaf mulch, aka leafmould. Depending on the type of leaves and the area to be covered, chopping or mowing over the leaves is a good idea, but many will breakdown over winter without attention. As far as clean-up is concerned, the only absolute is to remove them from the lawn - allowing them to remain in place on the lawn for more than just a few days, they can compact in our damp weather and cause dieback of the lawn and/or fungal problems.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2004 at 10:12AM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Bill, I'm like you. I have about 50 trees on my acre, and they are all oaks. The leaves on the ground are quite deep already - you cannot even see the ground - but there are still more leaves ON the trees than off. I will probably start raking in the next week.

Ideally, I would not leave the leaves where they fall on the beds. I would find some way to shred or mulch them up and then put them back on. This is what I try to do every year, and this year my mom bought me a small leaf shredder, so I may make more headway towards my goal.

In reality, many of my leaves stay where they fall until spring, especially if there is snow, because I just can't get to them in time (it's just me and a rake, lol!) Also, many of them don't even come down until spring! While I've never had any serious problems in my garden from them, in the spring the leaves are one huge, heavy, soaking wet mat. It's pretty difficult to clean up. At least if the leaves had been shredded, they would have been easier to mix in the soil as a nice amendment. *Shredded* leaves make for a very good mulch, I would say.

BTW, congrats on the new place! I don't envy you having to take up that fabric. Good luck!


    Bookmark   November 8, 2004 at 9:51PM
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Hey Bill,

We live in the same area, and have the same situation in the back of our fact, your pictures could be our back yard! We face onto a greenbelt on a hill, covered with trees.

We relandscaped the entire front and back (front is all sun, western exposure, so we have wild extremes to deal with). We got rid of the lawn completely in both gardens, putting in stone patios and dry stacked walls. The plants in the back are all shade lovers, and we continued the look of the gulley (native and ferns) into the yard.

When the leaves fall, it's about a foot deep all around back there, so we do have to remove them from the beds. We try to grind them up and then place them back on the beds as a thick mulch. Most of the plants are evergreen or semi-deciduous, so it takes a while to spread the stuff around. I got a small electric leaf shredder a few years ago...not really happy with the performance, and might go with another one next year. But I can tell you it's worth the trouble...the plants love the soil when it's enriched with leaf mold.

One year I just bagged the leaves...had about 10 bags of them...and let them rot in the bags back there, then spread them out in the spring.

Whatever you do, do at least lightly rake the leaves off the plants, so they can get some light throughout our dark winters.

Your garden looks great...and you can have a lot of fun with it, even in the shade. We have hardy fuschias (about 70 of them!), Japanese anemone, ferns, rhodies of all sizes, and many NW natives that grow in the deep forest. For color, we've been experimenting with bulbs and perennials...things that seem to do well in the shade back there are hellebores, saxifrages, daffodils, hostas, and thuja and such. Plus other shrubs like pieris j, aucuba, fatsia, and weigela.

Good luck and happy gardening!

    Bookmark   December 4, 2004 at 9:33PM
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violet_sky(z8 Portland OR)

There's a really great link for composting at the bottom of this post that will answer any and all general questions about composting. You'll save yourself a lot of $$ in the garden if you start your own bin - very easy to do... nature does all the work. Also the folks in the soil/compost forum are more than helpful and delightfully wacky in their enthusiasm about rotting bits of OM and can answer any other questions you might have. Besides you'll make 'em all green with the sheer volume of greens and browns you've got at your new place. By the way lovely yard at the old homestead... I'm looking forward to seeing what you'll do with shady plants... I just moved as well and had a shady little spot to garden in [nothing but a weed patch when I got here]. I thought it would be boring [used to a lot of sun everywhere I've lived] but I had a blast with texture and color and even some very delicate flowers. It's my favorite garden to date!

Here is a link that might be useful: Master Composter

    Bookmark   January 2, 2005 at 6:22PM
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gardengull(z6B RI)

Hi ---Composting is healthy recycling of leaves, lots of compost bin options or make your own out of chicken wire, easy to wrap an end around rebar and use that end as a gate, just make sure that the size is more than 3 ft each side. Adding a perforated PVC pipe in the middle of it or horizontally accelerates break down time.

Composting can be done by 2 methods - cold (you leave it alone) or hot (turning it over, increasing aeration). Oak leaves work fine but you might want to maintain a healthier Carbon - Nitrogen ratio by adding a carbon source such "shredded paper" from your paper shredder. Check out Rodale's Composting book (about $9, illustrated book, very clear).

Locate in sun if possible - some sources say cover it - all i can say, you can take a lazy approach to this and still turn out rich compost.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 8, 2005 at 11:12AM
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Violet Sky, what is the dark purple Heuchera on the right hand side of your pretty path in your first picture? They are coming out with some of the most beutiful Heuchera this Spring:Marmalade, Peach Flambe,Lime Ricky, Caramel,Creme Brulee to name a few. I am also a Hosta collector and I like Tricyrtis, Pulmonaria and Camellia in my shade garden. The Camellias stay green all year and they are really pretty. I feed them heavily in the fall and they are loaded with buds right now. In fact one of them has blooms that are opening. We have a grove of trees on the east side of our property , mostly Oaks, a couple of old, old Fir trees, a few cedars and some others I am not sure of. That is all dappled shade and is where my shade garden is. My husband rakes the leaves into piles(we have tons) in the fall,then runs them through a chipper and lets them sit through the winter. Great oakleaf mold! I love my shade garden, It stays cool in the hottest part of the summer.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2005 at 6:01PM
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