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How do you keep your leaf mulch from blowing away?

 
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We are frugal gardeners and blessed to live in a forested area with plenty of trees that give a wonderful leaf mulch but one problem.. it always blows away. I have tried layering kindling and larger sticks over the leaf piles to weight them down but that only partially works.

I have had success putting chicken wire over the piles but I don’t have enough chicken wire for all my beds. Any other creative (and free) solutions? We have access to lots of leaves and sticks, compost is not ready yet, and our chip drop is pending.
 
pollinator
Posts: 232
Location: Sunizona Az., USA @ 4,500' Zone 8a
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I had a truckload of wood chips picked up and taken away by a big dust devil. 😡
 
pollinator
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Location: West Virginny and Kentuck
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Wayne Mackenzie wrote:I had a truckload of wood chips picked up and taken away by a big dust devil. 😡



Hoping you at least recovered the truck!

Seriously, though, we had the same problem at daughter's house, trying to amend her front yard gardens.  Keeping the leaves wet … pegging netting down … berming …  Nothing worked well; so we went with chicken coop scrapings from a generous member here on Permies.
 
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Location: Minneapolis, MN
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I leave the stalks of the dead annuals and dormant perennials in the beds and they tend to hold the leaves in place until they get buried in snow. I have also used weighed down row cover fabric for small areas. Wet leaves also don't tend to blow around so watering your mulch piles could potentially be an option.
 
gardener
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Location: Southern Illinois
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Hello Leah,

At present do you shred your leaves?

Personally I like to shred, dump and wet down.  If I can, I might throw in some grass clippings or other odds and ends, but the bottom line is that I get it wet and try to keep it at least moist.

You can shred was with a lawnmower.  I use a little leaf blower/vac.  Putting chicken wire over is good too.  So are the sticks a such odds and ends as you find them.  But getting the leaf volume reduced to about 10% of the original volume does wonders to keep the leaves in place.


Good Luck,

Eric
 
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I wet the leaves after putting them on, and then I either put and inch or so of woodchips on top, or I put a piece of cardboard on top, and a brick or two on top of that.
(I get plenty of cardboard for free from the recycling center or the grocery store)
 
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I shred my leaves and have never had trouble with them blowing away.  I use them on perennial beds, in compost piles, and in leaf mold piles and all of them stay in place.
 
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Leah Nam wrote:We are frugal gardeners and blessed to live in a forested area with plenty of trees that give a wonderful leaf mulch but one problem.. it always blows away. I have tried layering kindling and larger sticks over the leaf piles to weight them down but that only partially works.

I have had success putting chicken wire over the piles but I don’t have enough chicken wire for all my beds. Any other creative (and free) solutions? We have access to lots of leaves and sticks, compost is not ready yet, and our chip drop is pending.



Where do you live? (general area only please) Weather patterns by season? amount of rain per year?  with out knowing that info I have no way of being good help with your problem.
I notice many talk of shredding your materials, which is one good option that works, but there might be other things that would work better for your particular situation.

Redhawk
 
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas
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I usually put a small layer of wood chips over them (when I have them). We have a lot of pecan & oak trees that are always dropping sticks/branches, so I've used the small branches from the growing tips over the leaves, as they do an okay job if they still have enough twigs on them. I've also run a short "fence" of netting or wire (couple feet tall) along the edges of the gatden which catches leaves that try to blow away from me so I can spread them back out when the wind calms down.
Covering with cardboard or paper feed sacks seems like it would work, though probably not visually pleasing if that's important to you. I would think if the leaves were wet before laying the cardboard over them it wouldn't take long for them to decompose in small enough pieces to not blow away so easily. You'd just have to be sure you weigh down the cardboard/paper with something.
 
steward
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Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
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The first time I did that, they blew away too. My neighbors were not impressed. I don't shred my leaves. I spread them as thick as I can get them, then lightly sprinkle pine needes over that to hold them in place. I'll try to get a picture of my front bed in the next couple of days.

My first goal is to use the leaves as mulch. Of course, I want the nutrition for the soil, eventually, but they are also valuable as a mulch for as long as they will last.
 
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Location: Northants, United Kingdom
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I pile leaves for a year in a quiet corner. This gives them time to break down into leaf mould. I use leaf mould as a mulch, which is much less flyaway than newly fallen leaves.
 
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Location: New mexico
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We get a lot of wind in our New Mexico city. In our yard, which is shared with three other tenants, there's just one tree that drops leaves, and those leaves don't drop in my quadrant. The neighbors bag up the leaves but I've convinced them to hand the leaves over and let me use them as mulch  :)  Some small fraction ends up blowing back into their quadrants (I'm ok with that and they don't seem upset) but a few features seem to help keep the leaves in place.

The perennial plants help a lot. I have rosemary, some flowering bushes, and a year-old apple tree sapling that seem to keep the leaves anchored. I planted the apple tree in a depression and that stays nice and full with leaves.

My next line of defense especially this year are all the dead annuals I left in place. I get a lot of sunflowers and this year I mostly left their dead stalks. A lot of them I pushed over or they fell over and that might be helping a bit.

My third line of defense includes rocks and posts around my quadrants. The rocks were already there. Last year I tried putting up posts and wove lines to create a trellis for vine plants that never took. But I left the posts, and some generic grass or other grew around them, and they keep the leaves in place. Definitely a case of "weeds" serving a purpose - probably the most effective line of defense!

On the day-to-day, these defenses seem to work fine. If it gets particularly windy and dry, I'll definitely water the mulch because as was mentioned earlier the mold is key in weighing it down. But it takes a long time here and consistent watering to get the mold to form.  It dries out pretty quickly and it gets too cold to water often - I don't want the water freezing in the ground.

Far and away the best solution is the snow  :)  The leaves catch it and keep it shaded and cold in microclimates and my mulch is always the last place to thaw, so that is nice.

That's my situation and the approaches that have worked for me.
 
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Location: Italian Alps, Zone 8
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I’ve read about the Polynesian people on Easter Island (who were said to be excellent farmers) using rock mulching techniques. Basically it consisted of placing a neatly stacked floor of rocks on top of your exposed soil, keeping the soil from drying out and adding minerals to the soil from the runoff of water. A bit labor intensive, but they produced excellent yields on a very barren landscape with this.
Now the polynesian people didn’t have ample leaf matter to use as mulch, but I think combining the two (using the neatly placed rocks to form a layer on top of the leaves) could work well and be aesthetically pleasing.
Or maybe I’m just telling myself that because my soil is about 70% rock and as A permie-minded person I’m just trying to see the bright side of having THAT many rocks (I’m not crying, I swear!). 😂
 
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Location: 10 miles NW of Helena Montana
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I am starting a new homestead here in Montana near the Continental Divide just west of Helena.
My neighbors that have gardens have erected fences, (lots of elk, deer, bear, moose, coyotes, wolves and a variety of big cats here), with wind breaks built into them.  If you don't the wind will blow away anything you put down and totally dry out your plants in a short time.
I am looking forward to the challenge of creating a garden in this environment.  We have 10 acres with 2/3 of it mostly ponderosa pines.
We get a bit of wind alright.  My oldest son bought the 10 acres next to mine and we are both living in trailers while building our new homes.  (How windy?  We had to strap down his trailer with heavy duty straps.  It was rocking so hard in the wind, 75 mph gusts, that we thought it might tip over.)
So yes to windy garden and blowing leaves!
 
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Location: Cave Junction, Oregon
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When I was covering hugelkultur beds in an area with no soil to spare, I began piling all the leaves I could find on to them and pinning down the leaves with burlap and wood pins.. threw on a clover cover crop (all the seed i had on hand) That grew and helped pin the burlap down further. It breaks down after about 6 - 8 months but is easy to work around also. I loved the result that year.
off point.. This is what I have recommended  to folks I teach about hugelkultur who mention they are unable or unwilling to cover a wood pile with soil. I tell them to just keep covering their pile with leaves and to cover with the leaves w/ burlap.  The pile will compost a lot slower but at least we are discouraging burning of wood "waste"  
 
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We live on the coast. There's a lot of wind. We have raised beds contained within 2x8s that hold in the soil and mulch somewhat. TWe shred our mulch leaves with a lawn mower and put a layer of seaweed on top. Sometimes it's very thin, but even a thin web of fronds seems to keep the leaves from blowing away too much. We're lucky to have the seaweed resource.
 
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Location: Sukhbaatar,Selenge, Mongolia
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It can be extremely windy here, particularly in the spring. Wood chips blow away, dry manure blows away. We have access to abundant loose cut hay and we have been mulching our beds with that. We have found that the hay "mats" and becomes an interwoven mat and the wind blows over the top of it. It has proved to be quite effective in our windy climate.
 
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Shredding and keeping wet is a big help. If your wind generally comes from one direction, a fence will catch most of the leaves and you can reclaim them. We get heavy wind here at times, so I gave up mulching with leaves, and instead built a large insulated bin with worms and an access panel on one side at the bottom. Shredded leaves get layered with maybe 10% horse manure and veggie scraps, the lid is secured, and worm filled compost comes out the bottom every few months. In dec-feb (down to -30 here at times) the bin is covered with a heavy tarp and then snow, plus it has the 3” (r15) of foam insulation so the middle never freezes and the worms survive all year. Because leaves come all at once in the fall, I have ‘super sacks’ like grain comes in, that each hold about 2 cubic yards of material, and I store the shredded leaves in those until I need to top off the worm bin. Last year I connected with an organic lawn service- he won’t use chemicals or work for people who do- so I get lots of leaves and grass clippings!
 
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