Monday, November 25, 2013

What To Do With All Those Leaves

I have lots of leaves!
It is that time of year when the leaves are dropping faster than I can clean them up. In my garden, I have huge mature trees and as you can see from the picture above, lots of trees to clean up after. For me, leaf clean up starts in late August and continues till the week of Christmas. The buckeye trees are first to leaf out in the spring and the first to drop their leaves. Then the cottonwood trees and sycamore trees start dropping their leaves, followed by other trees and shrubs.

A cottonwood leaf and a large sycamore leaf
The sycamore trees and cottonwood trees are the worse leaves to clean up. The sycamore leaves are huge and I have lots of them, which is why my gardens are named "Sycamore Gardens". The cottonwood leaves are very thick and leathery and if I don't clean them up quickly, they mat down very easily smothering out my perennials. 

Chopped up leaf mulch
To clean up and rake my leaves would cost a fortune in leaf bags and I would never get the task done. Over the years, I have found a very easy way to clean up the gardens and save myself from raking leaves. I have a backpack leaf blower and I blow the leaves out of the garden beds and into the grass areas. I then run a lawn tractor with mulching blades over the leaves till they are cut up. This process goes on for several months tell all the leaves are all down and chopped up.

A fine leaf mulch all over the gardens
After all the leaves are down and chopped, which is in December, I use the leaf blower to blow some of this chopped leaf mulch back into the garden beds. With the leaf mulch in the garden beds and on the grass areas, it slowly starts to break down into the soil. When the grass starts to grow in the spring the leaf mulch disappears into the soil with the help of lots of earthworms. 

I have around 600 hostas in my garden. Cutting and cleaning them up takes forever. Since leaf clean up takes a long time, I can clean up the remains of my frost damaged hosta leaves by blowing them from the beds and chopping them up at the same time with the tree leaves. If you clean up your hostas in this manner, make sure that you do not have diseased hostas or you will spread the disease around the garden. 

This is the best way for me to clean up my gardens. I make lots of leaf mulch that improves my soil, feeds the earthworms, keeps down the weeds and it makes for a healthy beautiful garden. By summer all the leaf mulch has disappeared into the soil that will be fed again in the fall with more leaf mulch.

How do you clean up your leaves? Leave a comment. I would love to hear from you.

Happy Gardening!


Friday, November 8, 2013

What are Those Black Spots on my Maple Leaves?

The other day, I was out cleaning up leaves in the garden. Not one of my top favorite things to do!
My garden is about 1 1/2 acres and half of it is covered with huge mature trees. In the process of blowing and chopping leaves, I noticed that my maple tree leaves had large black tar like spots. I had seen this before in other gardens, but not in mine. With the trees as tall as they are, it was hard to see the leaves up close.

What is on my leaves looks like someone dropped black tar on the them. Not surprising that this fungal disease is called "Tar Spot". This disease does not harm your tree, but it does make for ugly spotted leaves. Tar Spot disease will over winter on fallen leaves. Make sure that you clean up or mulch your leaves. If you mulch, turn the mulch pile.

The disease starts in the spring during wet weather when the fungus spores are spread by the wind and infect the new leaves as they open. Small yellow-green spots appear that over the summer become larger, thicker and black in color.  By late summer the spots are large enough to be noticed. Maples tree such as silver, sugar, red and Norway are infected by this disease. If you have box elder trees on your property, they can also be infected. Spraying for the disease can be a waste of time and money. Raking up and destroying infected leaves is the best line of defense to prevent the disease next year.

Happy Gardening!


Friday, November 1, 2013

Garden Conifers

Pinus flexilis 'Vanderwulf's Pyramid'
Fall has arrived in the garden. Yesterday, we had a big storm that hit our area. Between lots of rain and wind, the garden is full of leaves. Since it is too wet to clean up leaves today, it is a great time to write. Tomorrow I will be cleaning up leaves most of the day.

I enjoy fall in the garden. It is that time of year that you clean up, reevaluate and make plans for next year's garden. Over the past couple of years, I had noticed that I didn't have much color in the garden in the winter. That was when I decided to start adding conifers. Last year I added several weeping varieties and this year I added several more varieties of conifers that will add some color to the winter garden. Here are some of my favorites.

The picture at the top of the post is Vanderwulf's Pyramid Limber Pine. I like the pyramidal growth and the dark twisted growth of the needles. It should be a great accent tree in the garden.

Abies koreana 'Horstmann's Silberlocke'
The second new tree is a variegated Korean Fir. I really like the needles that are fluorescent blue with silver white on the underside. It should be lovely in the garden when mature.

I added this tree several years ago. It is a Blue Atlas Cedar. It is a tree that seems to get lots of attention and comments from garden visitors because of it's color and shape.

This conifer was added two years ago and seems to be doing very well in the garden. It is a Cedrus deodara 'Aurea'. It is out of it's Zone and when I planted it, I made sure that it had plenty of protection from the weather.

This little tree is a Weeping Norway Spruce. I like the way that it weeps and it is a nice specimen tree in the garden.

The last two pictures are Weeping Blue Atlas Cedars. I added these to the garden three years ago. I really like how interesting they are in their shape and the beautiful blue color that they add to the garden all year around.

It seems that every year, I find myself evaluating my garden. The fall and winter is a great time to do this and that helps me make decisions on what I will add to the garden next year. Next year, I would like to add some gold colored conifers for some extra color. Always planning!

Happy Gardening!


'Golden Shadows' Pagoda Dogwood

Years ago, I purchased a very small tree that was only 6 to 8 inches tall. It was a 'Golden Shadows' Pagoda Dogwood. It had beau...