Using Leaves in the soil bed...

greenepastures(9)November 17, 2013

I've got about 3 beds that I'm preparing for early spring planting. They're about 10'X4' each and I plan on using diary cow manure, straw, compost, and coffee grounds as amendments. The idea is to till all the materials, water well and cover with a thick layer of straw. It's my hope that with a generous supply of each, the beds should be ready to go by March 2014 (i'm in zone 9, Central Florida where the "soil" is predominantly sand).

I've read that leaves are a good soil additive but I don't quite know in what quantities I should add them. Would I need to chop them considering I won't be planting for another 3.5 months?

Please advise. I'm still fairly new at this.

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You will be just fine, I till into my 60' x60' garden every end of Sept (zone3) at least 100 large bags of leaves every fall and if I don't add manure I sprinkle in about 20 lbs of high nitrogen fertilizer and by mid may its all broken down, I till again in mid April (potatoes) and plant the rest of tha garden in Mid May . With your warm climate and the fact you watered it in it should be decomposed by mid April when you are ready to plant. Leaves decompose faster if they are chopped up, however in your warm climate if they are mixed into your soil for 4 months and watered in I wouldn't worry about it . Good luck you are doing it right..... keep adding mother natures good stuff.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2013 at 4:53AM
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What quantities of vegetative waste to add to your soil depends on what that soil needs. You want to end up with about 6 to 8 percent organic matter, humus, in your spoil so add enough to reach that goal.
The soil I have here is predominantly Lake Michigan beach sand to which I have added, annually, a lot of organic matter mostly leaves from deciduous trees. A simple soil test tells me that about 1/4 inch of organic matter floating on top of 4 inches of soil is about 5 percent OM.

1) Soil test for organic matter. From that soil sample put enough of the rest to make a 4 inch level in a clear 1 quart jar, with a tight fitting lid. Fill that jar with water and replace the lid, tightly. Shake the jar vigorously and then let it stand for 24 hours. Your soil will settle out according to soil particle size and weight. For example, a good loam will have about 1-3/4 inch (about 45%) of sand on the bottom. about 1 inch (about 25%) of silt next, about 1 inch (25%) of clay above that, and about 1/4 inch (about 5%) of organic matter on the top.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 6:21AM
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the_virginian(Zone 7 NoVA)

I don't think it is possible to add too much organic matter of any kind to Florida sandy soil and your plan sounds great, I would consider adding twice as much and then some more just in case you get some heavy spring rains.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2013 at 11:44PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

This past fall I mixed in and buried some leaves in my beds. And also piled a little on top and covered them tightly with plastic, TIL NEXT APRIL. (that will be about 6 months). In April I will remove the plastic and till everything in again and then get ready for planting.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 3:41AM
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You are lucky, you can get live oak leaves, no shredding needed.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2013 at 12:38AM
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I agree.... Im in my late fourties and so I only have about 15 years of veg gardening under my belt and my neighbors call me after they bag their leaves and so I take them all as a courtesy. Some years at the end of Sept Ive dumped on over a foot of uncrushed leaves and have never had a problem with adding too many the secret is till em in and add water and the microbes in the soil decay them during the five months. you can do the same with fresh horse manure in the fall and it works well but I hate the thousands of grass and weed seeds that come along with it. Cow manure is better for me as the cows have three stomachs and less seeds survive the digestion process.

have a great day

    Bookmark   December 10, 2013 at 1:52PM
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the_virginian(Zone 7 NoVA)

I am "the leaf bagman" of my neighborhood and go around and gather the bags of leaves in the fall. I shred mine twice and use it as a winter mulch with about a 4" layer on my planting beds around my palm trees, dormant bananas, gardenias and eucalyptus. Then I add about 2" of pine straw on top of that for good measure to keep the shredded leaves in place and tidy up the look of the beds. Sometimes I score raked pine straw in a nice bag from the neighbors. LOL!

    Bookmark   December 13, 2013 at 12:47AM
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Thanks all...hope it all works I forgot to mention that I don't have a "tiller"...not an electric one anyway....just a fork, a shovel and a spade...

I just take off the top 12 inches of soil (sand really) with the shovel, loosen the 2nd 12 inches with the fork...add the stuff in no particular order. After that I water well and then put the original soil back on top along with a few shakes of lime, azomite, iron, blood and bone meal and soak again. I then top it off with 4 inches of straw and soak again...

    Bookmark   December 14, 2013 at 9:15PM
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That is probably far more work then is necessary. Once I learned that tilling the garden was a waste of my time and energy all I did was pile the shredded leaves on the soil and the soil bacteria took care of moving them into the soil for me.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2013 at 6:17AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I consider fall leaves (composted or otherwise) a soil amendment and organic matter not a fertilizer. So if I want to amend my soil to depth of ,say 12", I have to mix the leave(crushed or not) into the soil. Leaving them on top works as mulch, which is ok too but it is not going to amend the soil as I want it.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 6:42AM
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Tree leaves are a source of numerous valuable nutrients as is any other form of organic matter. Since the aerobic bacteria that will be most useful to your plants function mostly in the top 6 inches of your soil why till to a 12 inch depth?

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 7:18AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

why till to a 12 inch depth?
I tell you WHY i do it ; Let's take a tomato plant as an example. I plant it more than 6" deep. Maybe 8" deep. And it grows roots even deeper than 12". If I was going to plant spring radishes it would be different.
Then again, we all have our ways of doing things. And surely we have our reasons for it.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 1:14PM
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I till my leaves in as I have too, with the heavy clay that I have is typical like a brick when to dry and like slime when to wet if I don't annualy incorporate organic matter. It lets roots grow as they should and it helps hold moisture instead of it running off and puddling between the rows. I like the fact that we can exchange ways to manipulate soil so that it becomes healthier and makes our experience more rewarding and lets face it why not do in one year that takes mother nature tens years as we aren't getting any younger. great posts above.

merry Christmas

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 11:11PM
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