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After looking into the different ways to keep leaf mulch from blowing away, I found many clever techniques which could help gardeners with a similar dilemma. I decided to narrow my findings into posts so that you can learn how to prevent your leaf mulch from blowing away.
Leaf mulch is a great tool for gardeners. It keeps the soil at a more consistent temperature, but it also improves soil fertility. One of the issues with leaf mulch is that it can blow away in windy conditions. The best way to prevent this from occurring is by using stalks and sticks to hold down the leaf mulch.
Using sticks is not the only way to keep leaf mulch from blowing away. Shredding the leaves and keeping them moist is another great way to keep the mulch compact and prevent it from blowing away.
Five tips and tricks for stopping mulch from blowing away
The key to effectively keeping leaf mulch from blowing away is using the resources that your garden provides you naturally. Re-using something from your own garden for a completely different purpose saves time, effort, and costs.
Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.Henry David Thoreau
In the following section, we will take a closer look at the various ways to secure leaf mulch, even in the windiest of conditions. There are many factors to consider, so I have provided a varied list that considers the resources that may be available to you.
1) Netting can help leaf mulch stay in place
A highly effective way to secure your leaf mulch in the wind is to use a net. By draping a light net over the mulch, you secure each patch evenly and prevent the wind from disturbing it.
Nets are usually used in the garden to protect fruits and other crops from birds and insects.
They are not overly expensive to buy and provide a great barrier against the wind. Cover the whole patch of mulch with a net, secure it at each corner with pegs or holders, and this will keep the mulch from blowing away even in the harshest of winds.
2) Moisture and Soil are a goot combination of preventing leaf mulch from being blown away
If you would prefer to limit costs and quickly secure your leaf mulch, that age-old formula of soil and water is a very convenient and natural alternative.
Wetting the mulch will add weight to it and bind the leaves together, creating a large collection instead of many individual leaves.
Layering the leaves with good quality soil will add further weight whilst also providing nourishment. If the winds are extreme in your garden, substituting the soil for wood chippings is a great way to add even more security.
3) Sticks, Stalks and Branches are good candidates for keeping leaf mulch in place
As I earlier mentioned in this post, the use of sticks, stalks, and branches is a great way to keep your mulch from blowing away.
The great thing about using sticks, stalks, and branches to keep leaf mulch in place is that you can combine it with any other methods to keep leaf mulch from flying away, and it will further protect against the wind.
Collecting sticks is also a fun activity to do with family members or friends. This is a great way of reusing resources and being creative in the garden.
4) Shredding the leaf mulch can help them from being blown away
Shredding the leaves will improve their resistance against the wind dramatically. Chewing them up by repeatedly going over them with a mower is one of the simplest methods, but there are other ways to shred leaves.
Leaf shredders are great tools that work for you, but you could use a wood chipper instead if you don’t have access to one.
Leaf mulch is a brilliant resource for gardeners because it is the gift that keeps on giving. It will eventually turn into compost and release nutrients into the soil and plants. The shredding of the mulch aids this process.
Benefits to shredding leaves for making leaf mulch
Shredding leaves is great because it creates more efficient disposal. Leaves are biodegradable and a great source of organic matter. They can be used to prevent weeds or to enrich your garden beds – making them a great alternative to compost.
When making leaf mulch, shedding is probably one of the most important things you can do to speed up the process, But there are so many other ways in which to get great leaf mulch also known as leaf mold. In the video below I show you how to make leaf mulch for your garden.
The shredding process creates this effective mulch that allows air and water to flow freely into the soil, and shredded leaves are porous enough to do so.
Mulch that hasn’t been shredded could get matted and create a layer in which water would runoff, and air could not move through it freely. This could cause problems for the plants in the bed.
5) Consider Windbreaks to keep leaf mulch from being blown away
Perhaps the most obvious way to keep leaf mulch from blowing away is to create a windbreak. This can be a fun project to undertake, as there is no right or wrong way to build a windbreak. As long as it is effective, safe, and happy with its looks, you can basically write your own blueprint.
When making a windbreak, the first thing to consider is how the wind is likely to blow in your garden. As the wind blows against the break, the air builds up on the windward side and decreases on the leeward side.
What can you effectively use a windbreak for your leaf mulch
You can make windbreaks from various materials like mesh, fences, or other trees and shrubs. Get creative with the tools you have in your garden, and this can be an enjoyable project to undertake.
Most of the methods on the list are inexpensive and require minimal equipment. Combining the techniques is a great way to add even more stability to the mulch, which will come in handy in the autumn and winter months.
Other materials which can be used for mulch, aside from leaf mulch
Leaves are not the only materials that are great for being used as mulch. There is, in fact, a wide range of materials that all provide different benefits.
Look into wood and bark mulch
Wood and bark are inexpensive materials that are great for aiding the penetration of moisture and saving water. The wood should be chipped so that it can be spread evenly in the bed.
An effective way to use wood and bark as mulch is to place them over landscape fabric.
Over time, the wood mulches become a great source of nitrogen for the soil as they decompose. One thing to be wary of is that some wood can harbor termites and pests, but there are plenty of wood types that are insect resistant. A comparison of leaf mulch and wood mulch is covered in detail in this article I wrote on leaf mulch vs. wood mulch. Feel free to check it out here.
Hay, Straw and grass mulch are often used for their avaiability
Hay, straw, and grass also make great mulch. These materials are easily available and inexpensive. There are a few things to be aware of concerning the use of these materials as mulch.
Grass clipping can potentially include weed seeds which can invade the flower bed. All of these materials must be thoroughly dry when used as mulch. If not, they can mold over time.
Consider Stone and sand mulch for landscaping activities
Stone and sand are another alternative but are more often used for landscapes than shrub or vegetable gardens.
They are highly effective at preventing weed growth and can be pleasing to the eye. Landscape fabric is a must if using rocks, as this stops them from sinking into the ground.
Process of making leaf mulch
We have talked about keeping leaf mulch in place, but we really haven’t talked about ways to create effective leaf mulch.
Leaf mulching can be done by building a pile of compostable material, adding layers of soil and water to the leaves you have gathered for leaf mulching.
After a few weeks, the leaves will turn dark and crumbly. This is when they are composted enough to be used as leaf mulch.
If your composting leaves start to smell sour, they require turning. This smell indicates a lack of oxygen during decomposition. The leaves can become highly acidic and potentially injure plants if it is used.
What to do with your excess leaves from the leaf mulch
When leaves eventually turn to compost, they contribute to the soil’s moisture retention and overall structure. If you have excess leaves, there are ways to help the process.
Use the excess leaves from the leaf mulch for worm composting
Worm composting is a great way to break down the excess leaves. You make a worm bin from a tub or box and put some holes for drainage in the bottom.
A tray is then placed underneath, which retains the liquid that falls through – this liquid is high in nutrients. Leaves are used to make a bed for the worms, and then the bin is placed in a cool spot, not in direct sunlight. Eventually, the worms will create compost as they break down everything which is inside the bin.
The best mulch for weed prevention
One great concern for us as gardeners is preventing the growth of weeds. When it comes to mulch, certain materials will do this effectively.
In my experience, the mulch that is most effective at preventing weeds is the materials that improve soil after harvest, compost, leaves, and straw.
Leaf mulch is known to very effective for keeping weeds from growing due to its ability to effectively block out sunlight from the soil when scattered all over an area. It is best to put in at least 6 inches of leaf mulch for this to be effective, and more about this is covered in an article that I wrote on the effectiveness of leaf mulch in stopping weeds, linked through here.
Methods to keep weeds at bay, but with disadvantages
Some gardeners use unorthodox methods such as placing old carpet in the garden as this raises the soil acidity and deters weeds from growing.
One topic which is debated amongst gardeners is the use of cocoa shells. These shells include small amounts of an ingredient that can apparently stop weeds from growing. This method should not be used if you have pets, as cocoa shells are toxic to them.
Choosing the right amount of mulch to place into your garden
The amount of mulch you need depends on the specifics of your garden. There are, however, ways to work out the right amount you will require. Generally speaking, a two-inch depth of organic mulch would be the ideal amount for keeping moisture and preventing weeds.
When it comes to mulch, adding more is not necessarily better.
Plant roots require a good supply of air for their survival. A layer of mulch that is too deep could suffocate the roots and cause the plants to die.
If you are using mulch which is fine in texture, this shouldn’t be more than three inches in depth. More substantial mulch will allow air to pass through more easily, which can be up to four inches deep.
Some common leaf mulch problems and how to avoid them
If mulch is laid correctly, it should be a straightforward process. Mulch can cause problems if it comes into contact with the stems of shrubs and trees, though. This can weaken the stems and make them more susceptible to disease.
Diseases and pests that are may be present in your leaf mulch
There is also the risk of introducing diseases, pests, and weeds into the garden through the mulch. This can be avoided by using materials that are not known to transport these pests.
Fertilizers can be spread over mulches in the wintertime, and rain washes them into the plant roots.
If you see white fungal-like growth in your mulch, this is usually nothing to worry about. It is common to find harmless saprophytic fungi in the soil that has been covered by organic mulch. There is no need to dig out the mulch if this occurs.
How the bed can impact the effective use of leaf mulch and it staying put
The shape and build of a bed can impact whether the mulch can stay put and effectively nourish the soil. A bed with raised edges will provide more protection against the wind. The angle of the bed will also affect the water distribution.
A good way to combat frequent water runoff is by using gravel or stone chips.
Edging a bed with bricks, lumber, or plastic edging is a great way to contain mulch and soil. Creating a build-up edge will secure the mulch and is especially effective in heavy rain and wind. You can also cover areas of the bed with nonslippery newspaper to protect the bed against the wind.
Building a small wind barrier around the bed is a great way to provide protection. Ideally, you want the bedsides to be raised slightly as this will add some much-needed security.
How often should you re-mulch?
Ideally, we want to replace mulch as soon as signs of decomposition start to show. A tell-tale sign of this is discoloration. You will likely have to remove and replace all mulch after around five years completely. Checking the mulch every few months to see if it needs to be moved around or replaced is a good idea. How long the mulch lasts depends on a few factors like the weather, soil quality, and the materials you use.
Conclusion on five ways to keep mulch from being blown away
When looking for ways to keep leaf mulch from blowing away, it is a good idea to be resourceful and use what you already have at your disposal in the garden. Stalks of dead annuals and dormant perennials would be ideal, but I appreciate that not everyone has easy access to these.
Try to think about the logistics and what you already have at your disposal. Keeping leaf mulch from blowing away need not take too much time, and it should be a fun and rewarding process.
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