Leaves are our main source of humus for the garden. We could easily get manure, but we prefer not to as we are on limestone, and apparently this type of rock filters ground water very little. We are afraid we would pollute our well which is very close to the garden. In many agricultural areas in Ontario, because of the spreading of manure, water from some wells is undrinkable, because it is too high in nitrogen. Our well water pass tests with flying colours and to make sure it stays that way, we only use leaves and leaf mold as soil amendment.
|Semi-composted leaves in autumn|
|Newly gathered leaves|
We gather the leaves at this time of the year. They actually come from the property of a friend who has lots of trees and lawns and used to pay someone to rake them off. We now rake them for her and use them in our garden. We put them in large paper bags, take them home, and empty them in a ditch which gets filled with water most of the year. We also use some in the compost heap. When there is a lot of green material, we use leaves to produce layers of brown and green material.
|Alternating "brown" with "green" material for compost making|
We usually spread these leaves in the spring and in the fall. In the spring, after a winter sitting in water under the snow, they have already started to break down and are used as mulch which slowly turns into humus over the summer. Because they are heavy with water, they tend to stay in place where you put them. In the autumn, we spread what is left in the ditch before the new batch arrives. At that point, they have become leaf mold.
|Leaves that have been in a ditch for a year|
We get at least 60 bags of leaves. It represents a fair bit of work raking these (mostly done by Lorne) but it is well worth it. These leaves are about 75% maple, 15% oak and 10% horse chestnut. We could just pile them up and wait for them to get composted, but we have found that soaking them for several months, speeds up the process. The ditch where we store them was actually dug up to accommodate the overflow from the rill. It now serves two purposes.