View Full Version : Too many leaves in the garden = not a good thing?

October 19th, 2010, 04:30 PM
Not too long ago, I had heard something(forgot if it was on the internet, or tv gardening show... )... anyhow... I just recalled this;
"too many leaves can harm a garden". Same for pine tree needles.

Supposedly, could upset the soil...(too much of a good thing, basically).

Last year.. there was something on a local tv news segment about piling leaves to around 1/2 ft in depth... (around shrubs, iirc.... like mulch)... and it would break down over Winter, and help feed the shrubs...and help in the Spring.... (not sure about vegetable gardens).

I used this rule in one garden area last year... and it didn't appear to help the corn too much, or the cucumbers.

In another area... another garden.... I used less leaves... and had way better results,with corn, bell peppers, and cucumbers.


October 19th, 2010, 05:25 PM
It depends a lot on the type of leaves. Some have acidic leaves, which can affect the soil more than others, and some break down faster than others. And it takes nitrogen to decompose leaves, in your garden or in a compost pile, so if they are you dig them into your garden in large amounts, you must put a generous amount of N fertilizer in there, or the plants may be deprived of N.

I have not had much trouble mulching with maple and sasafras leaves (the two main sources by me), and I compost most of them with grass clippings - a good combo to supply the N. Not much happens with the leaves in the winter here - I put them on top of my rows of garlic (the only time I use them by themselves), and by spring it has sort of flattened, but not much has decomposed. Come spring, I add some high N fertilizer, like some kelp or high N bat guano, and they decompose fairly fast, but still do their job mulching.

October 19th, 2010, 05:28 PM
There used to be a rule of thumb that it was a bad thing to allow a pile of leaves to build up in the garden because molds would grow. If the leaves are broken up, that isn't likely to happen. One doesn't want a barrier of intact leaves.

October 19th, 2010, 06:47 PM
A friend gets tons delivered from the local town and he puts them on his veggie plots about 6 inches deep, or more. He has been doing it for over 10 years. He just pulls back rows and plants his crops then as the plants grow he tucks them in to the rows. I dont see much wrong w. his gardens. AND he has tons of worms to boot. I use them more sparingly as i just cant get them all in time before snow. I do think too much of anything can be not so good, trick is, whats enuff or too many?

October 19th, 2010, 06:59 PM
I have been building a leaf mold pile every fall for the last 3 years. I don't chop them up, just add a bit of grass to aid decomposition. Every rain, I stomp them down as much as possible, then add more leaves. I turn the pile until the snow flies, then turn, turn, turn again come spring.
I turned some into the rows with the Mantis before planting. And over the course of the season, I added some as mulch where I felt it was needed.

This year, I am also going to add leaves to the garden after freeze-up.

October 19th, 2010, 07:19 PM
I think it depends on how many earthworms are present. With an abundance of earthworms there can't be too many leaves anywhere or on anything so long as it is fairly wet.

October 19th, 2010, 07:44 PM
I was putting them down a foot deep on a lot of beds last year. As long as there isn't anything growing underneath them that will get suffocated or strangled, the more the better, IMO.

October 19th, 2010, 08:38 PM
If just leaves, maybe add a little lime.
It aids in the break down of organics.
Corn & cucs should love it.
Take a soil sample to a local GH or nursery, PH test is usually free.
Maybe the weren't de-composed enough.

October 19th, 2010, 09:25 PM
Thanks for the replies, everyone.

Usually, by March.... the arrival of Spring... there are no leaves left.

In the Spring... I did cover the pathways between the rows of bell peppers with brown garbage bags, and then covered that with lawn clippings..that were mulched.

I usually apply lawn clippings around/near the plants( all of them... if I can.. cucumbers, corn, etc..) all Summer.

October 19th, 2010, 10:14 PM
mnnn gort.... 5 feet thick with a ton of hay and is gone in a year....smiles
aint no such thing as too many leaves..i used mostly oak last year...smiles......

October 20th, 2010, 11:38 AM
Thanks for the replies, everyone.

Still not 100% what will happen with the leaves I have left in the yard... maybe mulch some with the mower... and add some more to the garden.

October 20th, 2010, 03:56 PM
I till in lots of leaves in the fall, scoop them from the roadside in town but I also add a lot of chicken manure with them to counter the nitrogen used up when they decompose.

October 20th, 2010, 09:00 PM
There used to be a rule of thumb that it was a bad thing to allow a pile of leaves to build up in the garden because molds would grow. If the leaves are broken up, that isn't likely to happen. One doesn't want a barrier of intact leaves.
That reminds me of something I forgot to mention: I run over all those leaves many times with my mulching mower, until very fine, then add the catcher, and collect them. It is absolutely incredible what a HUGE pile of leaves will reduce to!

October 21st, 2010, 10:20 PM
four things of note adding lots of leaves can do.

Adds organic matter. (carbon) very good.
uses nitrogen to decompose, just add some extra.
Acidifies soil, add lime.
Long term and a lot added may accumulate excess potassium.

There seems to be advantage to charcoaling,

eliminates nitrogen robbing nature, instead the charcoal soaks up nitrogen and delivers it to the plants as needed.

Still adds carbon but in a form the won't "burn out" in hot climates. Which I watched happen many times.

does not acidify,

no potassium issues.

Something to play with.

October 22nd, 2010, 12:29 PM
Can you explain what charcoaling is? You mean dump bags of charcoal in the garden? My soil test came back good except I needed potash. Guess I need to find someone with a wood burning stove and get their ashes?

October 22nd, 2010, 12:43 PM
Look up Terra Preta on the internet and you will find many great articles about it... Same as charcoal.

October 22nd, 2010, 06:33 PM
I learned that if you don't chop them up and leave them all on the lawn in thick sheets of leaves, and it rains on them a few times, its a great way to kill a lawn.

I've piled up the chopped up version eight inches thick and the plants seem to do great in those areas. Way less weeds in the spring too. You have to be careful about how much you put around perennials though.

October 22nd, 2010, 06:36 PM
pssssssst don't tell dawg i been hoarding some leaves from last year.......
he'll come a raiding....smiles

October 22nd, 2010, 06:46 PM
I heard that!


October 23rd, 2010, 08:12 PM
I get ALOT of leaves each fall and let them compost until its time to plant my garden. I have had very good luck doing that.

October 28th, 2010, 11:51 PM
If I get leaves in trash bags, I will dump them in the back of the yard and stomp on them each week and drench them through the top with a hose. This starts the crumbling and breakdown. In the early spring, I will till them in as I add the first of the finished-to-almost-finished compost.

This year, I will probably spread them on the garden, sprinkle the charcoal/wood ashes from BIL's BBQ on top and cover with summer compost and grass clippings.

Last spring, I mulched the corn patch with a layer of leaf mold and grass clippings and the corn looked like it loved it! I also did the same for the tomatoes and added dried crushed egg shells (didn't wash, but was very dry)

October 29th, 2010, 12:55 AM
great thread guys! really helped me out a lot! ive been waiting for all the leaves to fall, we had a wind advisory today, guess imma get my rake out tomorrow and IN the garden they go!