This season, the maple tree shows where we are in the Fall wrap-up of outdoor gardening at Plant Exchange. The tree’s leaf color progresses to red but is not fully there yet, even with the extra time and extended mild temperatures this mid-autumn. Some leaves are red, many are yellow, and some are already brown with frost each night these days. Of course, the tree experienced drought conditions this year. No excuses for the completion of garden tasks; fall colors are a bit intoxicating.
In this region, we’ve had weeks of golden cottonwood trees shimmering in sunlight and rattling in the breeze. The waxy leaves do have a sheen, but it is the way the leaf moves in the lightest air movement that sets it apart.
Nature’s engineering design of the cottonwood leaf is responsible for the shimmer and rattle. These leaves show the petiole’s flattened sides in the opposite plane of the flat leaf blade. Also, the connection of the leaf petiole to the stem is flared and sturdy. It’s unusual to see a fallen cottonwood leaf without a petiole, even after stiff winds.
Mulch is protection to plants that overwinter. One of the seasonal chores is the removal of yard waste that is diseased and unsightly. We try to leave some plants for winter interest and wildlife habitat. Fallen dry leaves can be a source of mulch.
Some leaf mulch challenges include selecting leaves for mulch that appear to be disease-free and finding a storage area as you accumulate them or use them directly. Our fenced garden contains the leaves, and then we run over them with a lawnmower to break the dry leaves into pieces. Leaves can’t pack and form a layer that doesn’t allow rain to percolate into the soil.
The November/December Northern Gardener magazine, available for browsing at Yankton Community Library, has an article about sources of mulch that may be locally available, including wood chips and hay.
We all enjoy beautiful days. Finds from a walk can include the beginnings of a holiday pot of dried plants. Let’s have fun outdoors.