Improve Soil Quality
If you have been gardening long, you are sure to have heard about the Back to Eden Gardening method which uses wood chips as a top mulch for the garden. The benefits of a garden mulched like this are the reduction of soil erosion, less weeds to compete for nutrients, and better water retention. Most other soil amendments can simply be placed on top or gently raked into the wood chips.
Wood chips will also increase the nutrients in the soil as they break down and compost on top of it.
Wood chips can usually be found for free through tree services or your local green recycling facility. Check with your local power company too, as they do a lot of chipping when the clear down trees and line and during general upkeep.
Chopped Leaves (or Leaf Mold)
Don’t let all those fallen leaves go to waste! Leaves are full of minerals and once they are added to the garden they feed earthworms and other microbes. They can also lighten heavy clay soils and help to retain moisture in lighter sandy soils. They are a wonderful source of carbon and will increase nutrients in the soil very readily.
It’s best if you chop the leaves before adding them to the garden. The easiest way is to just mow over them a few time with a mower and then rake them up. Place them on top of you garden beds to decompose through the winter and early spring, then you can either till them in or use them as a base of a no-till garden.
If you have access to a lot of leaves you can try making leaf mold by taking your chopped leaves and bagging them up for a year- or at least through one season. Alternately you can just rake your leaves into a big pile and wait- but that doesn’t work too well are here where winter winds just blow the leaves clear across the valley!
Leaf mold can greatly improve your soil quality and it rivals peat moss in its ability to retain moisture.