Autumn months are perfect for gathering and saving seeds from desirable landscape plants. It is a good idea to get rid of weed seeds. Leaves are a gardener’s golden opportunity to enrich soil. Do not burn or bag autumn leaves.

Gardeners generally know that leaving dead plant stalks standing in garden beds is never good. Tiny bacterial and fungal spores on infected plant parts spread diseases to plants of the same type next year. It is better to collect then burn or bag and remove from the area diseased leaves, stems, dried fruit, etc. Insects, slugs and other garden pests take shelter in plant remains and woody trash.

Leaves fall to the earth, decompose and become humus. Similarly grasses grow up, then die back laying flat on the ground, then decompose and add organic material to the upper layers of the soil.

Organic gardening focuses on these natural processes using plant materials like plant stems and leaves from garden cleanup along with grass clippings and fallen leaves to make compost or mulch.

Once seeds and diseased plant parts are removed, the remaining waste from fall yard and garden cleanup are the raw materials. Moisture, air, nitrogen and carbon feed the microorganisms that decompose (rot) vegetation, weeds and tree leaves. Decomposition occurs more efficiently when plant parts are chopped up and mixed in the right proportion of carbon for energy and nitrogen for protein manufacturing.

Green materials like grass clippings and kitchen vegetable scraps are nitrogen sources. Fertilizer can be used, too. Dry tree leaves, bark nuggets, wood chips and sawdust are all carbon sources.

Using a higher proportion of carbon slows the decomposition process. Too much nitrogen can make a compost pile stinky. You should prefer using hand pruners or garden shears to cut plant stems and leaves into pieces before putting them on the compost heap.

You may consider using your lawn mower to mulch and bag fallen leaves. They decompose by mid-summer the following year. It is a slow but easy method of composting.

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