AROUND THE GARDEN: Those Falling Leaves and Evergreen Needles

Fallen leaves are a great gardening gift: They are an essential carbon component to add to the compost pile.

Published November 21, 2015 10:12 PM
3 min read


garden-thFallen leaves are a great gardening gift: They are an essential carbon component to add to the compost pile.

By Chris Cohan

gardenFallen leaves are a great gardening gift: They are an essential carbon component to add to the compost pile. Shred them into smaller pieces for quicker composting; this can be easily achieved by running your lawn mower over a small pile. Add green material such as grass or other herbaceous plants to the leaves to accelerate decomposition — one-third greens, two-thirds browns. Compost piles need to be turned at least once a month. Remember, compost is the best thing you can do for your soil.

It is important to clean up leaves before they damage your lawn, ground covers, and other low-growing plants. Leaves are a valuable product for the organic gardener to recycle. If the leaf drop is not too heavy, you can recycle them back into the turf by crosscutting your lawn with several passes until the pieces are small enough to decompose.

However, look out here come the hurricane-force leaf-blowing patrols. Stoic and serious as surgeons they strip bare your beds of mulch. Silly, now you must replace with new mulch after the final cleanup. Mulch prevents alternate freezing and thawing and conserves moisture in the ground. It helps prevent winter injury. If possible, tell your garden maintenance crew to be less aggressive. Leave some mulch on beds and organic matter on lawns.

 Even though top growth has stopped, root systems continue to grow. It is important to feed your plants in order to develop a deep root system. There are many organic fertilizers, Milorganite and Espoma, to name two — which do a good job and are slow-releasing, which reduces the chance of burning the plants. Don’t forget to empty your garage of all leftover fertilizer and mix into garden beds. A plant is only as strong as the roots that support it.

 Most perennials need to be put to bed. Cut them down and clean up all dead debris. Cover beds with a two-inch layer of mulch. Plants with winter color, like grasses and autumn joy sedum, should not be cut. Enjoy their swaying structures and shadows cast on the snow through winter. Clip them back in spring.

 Now is the time to plant bulbs. So, dig, dig, and dig some more to enjoy a bounty of blooming bulbs in spring. Daffodils, Spanish hyacinths, tulips, lilies, alliums, and others all have a place in your garden. Plant a clump of exotic Fritillaries by your front walk. Imagine nature producing a flower with a checkerboard pattern.

If you are worried about the number of dropping pine needles, don’t. The inner foliage of many evergreens turn yellow and drop. This is normal. If excessive yellowing takes place, it is an indication that the plant was stressed at some time during the year — probably the result of too little watering.

 There are several mature Metasequoia glyptostroboides, commonly known as Dawn Redwood trees, in Rye Town Park. It is normal for these deciduous conifers to drop all of their needles only to come back again in the spring. The biggest ones located at the top of the sleigh ride hill are 25 years old. Although the shortest of the redwoods, they will grow to at least 200 feet in height.

Dawn redwoods were once common across the northern hemisphere and considered extinct. The genus Metasequoia was first described in 1941 as a fossil of the Mesozoic Era, and all fossils discovered of the tree were at least 1.5 million years old.

Soon after that first description, a forester happened across an enormous living specimen while performing a survey in Sichuan and Hubei Provinces. Nine hundred and forty-eight seed and seedlings were made available first to arboretums and universities. Commercial availability of this ‘living fossil’ did not become available till the late 1950s.

Imagine how big these trees will be in the Park ten years from now! Let’s hope that cars, dogs, and weed whackers are kept from their trunks and roots. It is time to expand mulched beds beneath these links to our past and preserve them for the future.


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