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Blowin in the wind

 
Dave de Basque
Posts: 118
Location: Basque Country, Spain-43N lat-Köppen Cfb-Zone8b-1035mm/41" rain: 118mm/5" Dec., 48mm/2" July
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I'm a newbie/wannabe mulcher.

I've heard that snails and slugs don't like oak leaves. So since we do have snail and slug problems round these parts, I thought that would make good mulch. So now I have 3 big bags of leaves (European live oak, see photo) that need to go in emptyish raised beds as shown.

OK, so the problem is... WIND. I keep reading and reading about mulch and no one ever seems to mention wind! My garden is in a bit of an exposed location, and wind can really pick up here when it wants to. The wind is not constant but the gusts can be fierce. (Doubt my situation is unique, is there anywhere where this is not true?).

Anyhow, it's fine to put a bunch of mulch down, and carefully keep it away from the stalks of my tender seedlings, but if I come back the next day and it's all blown around, bunched up against the downwind wall of my raised beds, or gone altogether, I haven't gained much except for maybe some exercise.

So I've heard I should put a bunch of leaves into a trash barrel, insert a weed whacker, and chop them up that way, and they will make better mulch. OK, so maybe smaller pieces will have less loft but I still see myself having a smaller version of the same problems.

What did Ruth Stroud do? Surely in New York there was also wind. What do the rest of you do?



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3 big bags of
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oak leaves
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emptyish raised bed
 
chip sanchez
Posts: 8
Location: Broward, Fl
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Hi Dave, i also use oak leaves as mulch. i store the fresh leaves in tubs and containers first and let them compost down half way. i don't shred them but they seem to get shredded naturally while composting. Worms (quite a few) also get into the tubs somehow and eat the oak leaves. but for now i would recommend to put the leaves in your raised bed and then a light layer of wood chips or bark to hold the leaves down.
 
Dave de Basque
Posts: 118
Location: Basque Country, Spain-43N lat-Köppen Cfb-Zone8b-1035mm/41" rain: 118mm/5" Dec., 48mm/2" July
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Good idea! Thanks a lot Chip. I don't have easy access to wood chips but I do have a whole lot of 4cm square (1.5") wood stakes that are left over from when we made our raised beds. I imagine that should work, and then maybe I don't have to shred them either. Worth giving a try anyway. Thanks!

PS interesting you half-compost your leaves before using. You don't suppose leaves this brown will be robbing nitrogen from my growies do you? I suppose you do this just to increase lovely moldiness and avoid settling issues once it's in place?
 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1424
Location: Central New Jersey
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I use oak leaves as my primary mulch material and the primary ingredient in my compost bins, because most of the leaves dropping in my yard are oak. I don't worry much about them blowing away. To some extent, they do, but I am just not that concerned about everything staying where I put it Enough does stay where it is needed.

Shredding makes a huge difference, on multiple levels. Less will blow off, but also, whole leaves have a remarkable tendency to form impermeable sheets that can shed water and prevent it from getting into the soil beneath them. How did ruth stout do it? With a casual disregard for how much stayed put, I think

One thing to consider about leaves is that it takes fungi to do most of the breakdown because they are high in cellulose and lignin, things fungi break down but bacteria do not.

I don't worry about the leaf mulch being blown over seedlings or plantings. I do tend to put it on in the fall, leave it there over winter and then rake it aside in spring for planting. Once plants have established themselves a bit, then I bring the mulch back into the beds.
 
Dave de Basque
Posts: 118
Location: Basque Country, Spain-43N lat-Köppen Cfb-Zone8b-1035mm/41" rain: 118mm/5" Dec., 48mm/2" July
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Good points, thanks Peter, maybe I will shred then.

Just to clarify, I see I used misleading language in my first post. Mulching v.1.0 with oak leaves already happened at the end of last summer. After a couple of windy days, windy, yes, but really nothing special for around here, I came back to bare soil. Just a small pile of leaves bunched up against the downwind side of my beds and the rest was all gone. So I threw in the towel until I could collect more leaves in the fall. Since then, we've had a couple of good wind storms, more than what blew my last batch of mulch away. We tend to get maybe 4 really good wind storms a year that last a day or two and wreak quite a bit of havoc with whatever happens to be laying around outdoors. So it's not just my neurotic imagination, I promise, it's actually happened to me and I need to do something, otherwise it will be mulching in theory only.

I don't know about the wind in upstate New York, I imagine sometimes there is some! But our friend Ruth Stroud used straw for mulch rather than leaves as far as I know. Straw tends to gob up well and also sticks to itself a bit when you get it wet. So perhaps that was her secret. However, with the year-round snail and slug pressure we have here, I think that might be tempting fate. The wooden sides of my beds already provide a nice hangout location for snails and slugs, I don't want to extend the welcome mat into the center of the beds too, so I want to try at least in first instance with the oak leaves.
 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1424
Location: Central New Jersey
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Did not mean to deny your experience, but more to share my own. Mulch is not suited to every situation, perhaps yours in that group.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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