As visitors to the farm walk in the front gate they might experience a flashback to fall. There, on the right looming like a mountain, is a pile of leaves. Why ever would a farm need a pile leaves when it’s time to be planting?
Leaves can be seen in many places on the farm. They are used in the worm bin, providing bedding material, keeping the worms warm on cool nights. They also provide them with extra fiber as the nibble on them to make their compost. Leaves are also added to the compost pile providing the microbes located in there with some needed carbon to break down. This action will ultimately end up in one of the farms beds giving our plants some great nutrition.
Most of those leaves though, will be used to mulch many of the beds on the farm. Whether mulch is leaves, wood chips or straw, mulch is an important tool for a farm. Mulch is spread around and in between plants to help warm the soil when the air is cold, and holds moisture in on hot days to keep the soil cool. A thick layer of mulch in between the beds acts as a weed suppressant reducing the amount of labor it takes to produce the farms products. Natural mulches also have the added benefit of adding nutrients to the soil as they break down.
Farms also employ man made mulches such as black plastic. Most commonly, plastic is used around strawberries. After the bed is formed, irrigation is laid out, the plastic is put down, holes are cut at the appropriate spacing and plants are planted in the holes. The plastic keeps weeds at bay and reduces disease in the crops they surround. Quite often, leaves are spread on top as an added layer of protection.
So next fall when you are raking up your own leaves, keep in mind how they can be used in other ways in your yard before putting them on the curb.
“Look for the little green leaf, which designates a healthier option.”