Fall tips for Kentucky Gardens

Published 12:15 pm Wednesday, September 21, 2016

 By: Rob Amburgey | Jessamine County Extensions Agent for Agriculture/Natural Resources

Fall is a beautiful time for Kentucky gardens, but it can also be a messy one.

Tree leaves turn from green to vibrant fall colors and then drop, creating big piles. Then there are also the leaf and spent shoots from our flower beds.

The way we address our yard waste can have a significant impact on our gardens and on the environment. Gardners commonly rake up and bag leaves to haul away to yard waste dumps.

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This option, while tidy, uses a lot of energy — both yours and the energy to transport the leaves and mixed garden waste.

Dr. Rick Durham, UK Extension horticulture specialist offers another alternative.

Mulch leaves and yard waste. The bountiful resource could enrich your lawn and garden, while creating less waste and air pollution.

A very simple technique with leaves is to rake them into a line and mow over them with your lawn mower. The mower will chop the leaves into pieces small enough to fall between the blades of grass in your lawn. The chopped leaves will break down out of sight, provide nutrients to your lawn and improve the quality of your soil.

Using leaves as mulch has many benefits. The mulch helps retain moisture in the soil and insulates plants from extreme winter temperatures. The decomposed leaves become an excellent conditioner for warming spring soil, helping to attract worms and other beneficial microorganisms.

For larger items like spent flower stalks, composting is a simple, easy and environmentally friendly option. Done properly, it produces no odor and provides a generous amount of nutrient-rich organic compost for your garden, which reduces or eliminates the need to buy fertilizer.

Composting also eliminates the need to transport garden waste, making it a triple-win situation for your garden, wallet and the environment.

The speed of compost production is influenced by the size of the material placed in the bin, so the more you can chop up the garden debris, the quicker you will have usable compost. Many options for compost bin design and construction are available and well suited to any location and budget.

For more information on mulching and composting, contact the Jessamine County Cooperative Extension Service.

Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.