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A Day of Leaves

Trees in the woodlands on Fermilab’s property

The weather here in the Chicago area has been quite warm (70s and 80s) and the trees are still mostly green. I began to wonder if they were going to change color and drop. Not because I particularly want to rush the season of fall beauty, but because I’ve been on the lookout for folks setting out their fall leaves for collection. Most leaves are ideal for adding nutrients back into the soil (but not black walnut, which is toxic to plants). A great mulch for gardens.

But today I wanted to sleep in and not go to the garden. I’d worked in the garden for five hours two days before and was in no hurry to get back there. Motivating me to go is sometimes the issue. But once I’m there, it’s hard for me to stop working. So I turned over to sleep more after my husband rolled out of bed to get ready for work.

A fly began lighting on my face repeatedly. It was so annoying that I couldn’t go back to sleep. And now I thank this simple creature for waking me. It was a blessing in disguise. It motivated me to go to the garden after all.

I wanted to check on the garden because we had a lot of rain. Since we got our new plot, the one that floods, I wanted to see how our new beds were faring. I thought, oh I’ll just spend a short time and then onto other errands. Uh huh. Fat chance.

I discovered three more tomato plants that needed pulling out. We’d gotten almost all the tomatoes from them. And a spent pepper plant. And then there were a few weeds.

When I went to fetch a wheel barrow to haul out the plants and weeds I’d pulled, I discovered the ground by the tool sheds covered in cottonwood leaves.

The ground and stoops to the sheds were covered in leaves. All cleaned up now.

Something in me said to rake them up, even though others in the garden club usually do this. I thought it would be a helpful thing to them (and garden members going for the tools), and helpful to our own garden since they likely wouldn’t be using the leaves for their own garden.

Four wheel barrows later, I was able to cover a large raised bed completely. It was the only one left with completely bare manure. Now I feel better than it’s been done. We still want to add more elements to each of the new beds, and the old. But I was thrilled to have yet another free source of material.

Thank you cottonwood trees, for providing us with free materials for our garden.

Cottonwood trees are the backdrop at the garden club

Weeds, our own garden plants (such as sunflower leaves), horse manure (part of the garden club) and wood chips (through our city parks department) have all been free. And now the fall leaves too. All of these things make great elements to rebuilding soil, adding biomass, and feeding nutrients back into the soil. They also create a fluffy environment for roots to breathe – something critical to the success of raising healthy plants.

The Benefits of Cottonwood Leaves – Humic Acid

Cottonwood leaves are quite alkaline (carbon rich), but the benefits of them may outweigh the drawbacks if you have acidic elements (nitrogen). Since we used a whole lot of horse manure, which is acidic, this helps balance the soil pH.

Cottonwood leaves produce humic acid, which improves plant immunity, plant metabolism, root development, and the supply of plant nutritional elements.

Humic Acid promotes the increased accumulation of chlorophyll, sugar, amino acids and more and improves the efficiency of nitrogen utilization, reducing the need for fertilizer. One of the primary actions of humic acid is to increase the plant’s ability to withstand the stresses of heat, drought, cold, disease, insect and other types of environmental or cultural pressures. Humic also increases general plant productivity, in terms of yield, as well as plant stem strength. Within the soil, humic stimulates soil microorganisms, promoting humus.

So to find cottonwood leaves was a huge gift!

20131004_120627Here, in our garden bed, the lovely rich leaves. Nourishment for the creatures and the plants that will inhabit this place.

Today was the day of leaves.

Fall leaves in a woodland area on Fermilab property

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