One of the best amendments for soil is available for free, right in your own backyard. Here at Specialty Growers, all of our beds are amended each fall with “leaf-mulch.” Fallen autumn leaves are put through a shredder, and the resulting mulch is applied to the beds. (You can also run over the leaves with a lawn mower to achieve the same effect.) We put the shredded leaves around the perennials, not over them.
As the leaves decompose, they add nutrients and improve soil structure. Leaf mulch is effective in improving both sandy and clay soils. In sandy soils, it adds organic matter, which increases the soil’s moisture-holding capacity. In clay soils, the decomposing leaves break up tight clay particles and improve aeration. In both cases, decomposing leaves add valuable nutrients. This enriched soil also provides an ideal environment for beneficial microbes, further enhancing the health of the soil. Do not be overly concerned about the type of leaves available. Almost all leaves, with the exception of black walnut leaves, are beneficial when shredded before use.