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MASTERING YOUR GARDEN: How leaf mulching, composting can help your outdoor landscape

Before you bag those grass clippings, tree leaves, and other landscape debris, try this natural way of mulching your garden.

TYLER, Texas — We're approaching the time of year when tree leaves begin to accumulate in and around our landscapes. Before you pile up those leaves and toss them away, Smith County Master Gardner Vicki Lewis said this organic matter can provide the nutrients your garden needs to thrive.

"This doesn't mean keep the leaves there (as they fall) because then they will below all over your neighbors yard," Lewis said. 

Instead, you can use a lawnmower to chop the leaves into a natural compost that will be beneficial to your garden. 

"Pull out the sticks because you don't want them in your mower blades," Lewis said. "What you want to mimic is the mulch that you buy making a very fine debris."

This method is most effective when there is a light covering of leaves, especially when utilizing a mulching mower.

Leaf mulching is a simple and effective way to recycle leaves and improve your landscape. Mulches help reduce evaporation from the soil surface, inhibit weed growth, moderate soil temperatures and prevents soils from eroding and crusting.

"This is your gold," said Lewis holding the compost. "This is beautiful growing material for your plants in the spring."

Another method of leaf management would be composting. Compost is organic matter that has gone through a natural decomposition process. Grass clippings, pine needles, weeds and leaves can all be used for compost.

"You need your green and your brown. Consider your dying leaves your brown and throw that on top of your green which can be kitchen materials that are not fats," Lewis said. 

Other materials that should be avoided when it comes to compositing include: disease or insect infested plant materials, noxious weeds, meat, dairy products, cooking oil or grease.

For more information on the Smith County Master Gardeners, including receiving help for your garden you can visit their website, Facebook page, or email them at: smithmghelpdesk@gmail.com.

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