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Old January 9, 2018   #1
bob0923
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Default Garden mulch:

I have a 25' x 20' garden and I want to put leaves as a mulch before plowing in the spring. How many inches of leaves should I use?
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Old January 9, 2018   #2
bjbebs
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Leaves generally do best if applied during fall so they can begin breaking down during the cold months. A walk behind tiller will have trouble turning under leaves at 4-5 inches. You might consider tilling before spreading leaves. This will allow better tine penetration.

I spread many tons of leaves during the fall. Some are turned under with a small mid-mount Honda. The larger areas are worked with a PTO driven tractor mount.

Whatever you use don't scrimp on the leaves. They will break down eventually even if you aren't able to completely till in. There is nothing better for your garden, the more the better.
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Old January 9, 2018   #3
Nan_PA_6b
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Don't forget the Rule Of Leaves: no matter how many you gather, the layer of leaves will be thinner than you wanted.

Chopping the leaves up will make them easier to till in. Leaf blowers sometimes have a chop setting, or go over them with a lawn mower.

I acquired many bags of leaves but never got them laid down, alas. But I'm not trying to till them in; too many worms for tilling. Leaves will be lasagna layered.

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Old January 9, 2018   #4
Cole_Robbie
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Part of your answer depends on the extent that you have well-established, perennial weeds like Johnson Grass and Mare's Tail, which require a lot more mulch.
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Old January 9, 2018   #5
Ann123
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I never till them in. I heard they use nitrogen from the soil while breaking down whereas letting them break down on top op the soil would not cause that problem. Plus they repress weeds in spring.
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Old January 9, 2018   #6
bjbebs
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No matter the amount or the type of leaves added to existing soil you will not see nitrogen depletion. Have tilled in hundreds of tons for decades and can assure you even if it did tie up any nitrogen the organic matter you're adding would more than make up for it.

Whatever worms are harmed by tilling quickly replenish. Leaves are a prefered food of worms and they will work through massive amounts very fast.

At the risk of opening up a can of worms, I know tilling is not for everyone, just works for me.
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Old January 9, 2018   #7
Nan_PA_6b
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BJB-
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Old January 14, 2018   #8
Gardeneer
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Mulch , I believe using what is available and less costly
Having said that I have lots of pine straw, free to rake. I apply a thick layer. By the end of season it breaks down and make good soil amendment for my sandy soil.
I till in fall leaves as amendment or just a layer under pine straw. This combination saves water and keep the roots cool in our hot climate.
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Old January 14, 2018   #9
brownrexx
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I was also going to recommend chopping your leaves before adding either as a mulch or tilling them under. they will break down faster this way or if used as a mulch they will not mat together like whole leaves.

Leaves will have earthworm casings containing eggs on them so you will be adding earthworms by adding leaves.

I did not think that decomposing leaves would tie up nitrogen either until I added too many leaves and then planted my pepper seedlings. Every one of them turned yellow and I had to keep adding Fish Oil emulsion to them to keep them growing. I did not notice this effect on the tomatoes. I am a believer now.
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Old January 15, 2018   #10
Ann123
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What I heard (but I never read into it) is that it ties up nitrogen while breaking down. Once it is fully composted under ground it should again be a source of nitrogen. The lack of nitrogen would thus only be temporary but since it takes a while to break down it would not be advised to plant already in spring.
I am not going to do a test. I am very happy with leaves in my compost bin and using compost as mulch or using leaves directly as mulch.
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