More good advice from WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife about getting your garden ready for winter.
CROSSING PATHS NEWS NOTES November 2014
Leaving those leaves helps your garden and wildlife By Jamie Bails, WDFW Habitat Biologist
A few autumns ago, after watching a neighbor rake and bag fallen leaves, I asked him if I could spread the leaves around my perennial beds as mulch. He hesitatingly agreed and watched suspiciously as I quickly loaded up eight bags intothe wheelbarrow and giddily spread the leaves around my flower beds.
Like many people, my neighbor narrowly understood the value of leaf litter. Leaves were simply raked, bagged and taken to the dump -- not my idea of natural gardening. The next year, they cut down the trees, reducing my leaf supply. For now, a 100-year-old big leaf maple and other native trees I’ve planted will provide a healthy supply of leaves, saving me truckloads of soil composted from other people’s yards.
Using those leaves for mulch also helps the wildlife that visit my yard. They provide a food source for insects which in turn are eaten by many birds, reptiles and amphibians. Leaves also indirectly support wildlife habitat in general by improving overall soil and plant health.
As leaves are falling and you’re raking them up this month, think about these Top Ten Reasons to use those leaves as mulch:
Provides food source for beneficial insects which improve the health of the soil and in turn are eaten by wildlife Improves and adds nutrients to the soil Increases and strengthens plant root growth Regulates the temperature of the soil, keeping it cooler in summer and warmer in winter Reduces weeds, as long as the mulch is weed free and deep enough to prevent weed germination or smother existing weeds Prevents the surface of the soil from cracking or eroding by retaining moisture Prevents rain water from running off the soil and disappearing down a storm water drain Prevents water from splashing up onto plants which slows the spread of soil-borne diseases Prevents the soil from crusting or compacting Creates a natural forest floor environment Without leaf litter on the soil, rain will release clay and silt particles, increasing sedimentation, reducing the soil’s capacity to absorb water, and accelerating soil erosion. Leaf litter also reduces wind erosion by preventing soil from losing moisture and providing cover.
Leaves are valuable soil amendments because they’re the dominant pathway for nutrients to return to the soil, especially nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). These nutrients accumulate in the top layer of soil until leaves decompose, by rainfall and organisms, and leach or release the nutrients into the soil below.
A wide range of organisms takes part in the decomposition process, most relatively inconspicuous, unglamorous and, from a conventional human perspective, even undesirable. This detritivore community includes beetles and their larvae, flies and maggots (the larvae of flies), woodlice, fungi, slime molds, bacteria, slugs and snails, millipedes, springtails and earthworms. This community works out of sight and gradually, over months or years. Cumulatively, they are the unsung heroes who convert all dead plant and animal material into forms that are useable for growth.
There are several ways you can use leaves as mulch:
Slow-Compost Method: Rake the leaves off the lawn (assuming you still have lawn) and pile on flower beds to make the rich hummus and leaf mold that you would find in a mature forest. The leaf nutrients will leach out while the remainder of the dried leaf will slowly compost over the winter, putting nutrients directly back into the soil with the aid of the detritivores. This is a great method for soils that are clay, compacted or dry, and it won’t smother or burn plants.
Lawn-mower Method: Run your lawnmower over the leaves and then rake onto plant beds. This is a great alternative to purchasing beauty bark or wood chips. When spreading the leaves, be careful not to cover the plant crowns. Shred large leafs like big leaf maple to break down more quickly. Large, leathery, evergreen leaves like madrona, laurel and photinia need to be shredded unless they can be allowed to decompose over several years in a back corner. Evergreen leaves can be added to a hot compost pile to accelerate decomposition.
Both of these methods are excellent ways to encourage beneficial insects in your yard. Beetles, spiders, and centipedes readily crawl under leaves for protection through the winter, as well as deposit eggs in the soil or leaf litter.
Compost Pile Method: Store leaves in feed sacks and add to compost pile as brown material over winter. An abundance of leaves can be in a wire cage for decomposition over the winter. By spring, the compost is ready to spread on beds or can be added to the food waste compost bin.
Livestock Method: If you keep poultry or livestock, use your supply of leaves for litter or bedding along with straw or hay. Leaf mold thus enriched with extra nitrogen may later be mixed directly with soil or added to the compost pile or spread throughout the garden.
If you don’t have enough leaves from trees on your own property, ask a neighbor if you can rake their leaves onto your yard. They may think you are crazy, but you’ll be walking away with valuable free soil amendments and a boost for your backyard wildlife.
Good advice from WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife about getting your garden ready for winter.
CROSSING PATHS NEWS NOTES
Fall "To Do" list from your backyard wildlife family
Your family may be making those fall outdoor chore lists, as daylight hours shrink, temperatures drop, and the urge grows to "batten down the hatches" in the yard and garden. Here's another "to do" list from your local wildlife "family" that you may find easier to check off:
Leave some "dead heads" on your flowering plants to provide seeds for some of us birds and other animals
If you must rake leaves off grass lawns, just pile them under some shrubs, bushes or other nooks and crannies to provide homes for those insects that we birds love to eat; leaves make great mulch to help your plants, anyway!
Keep that dead or dying tree right where it is (unless, of course, it's truly a hazard to you), so we can feast on the insects in the rotting wood or make winter roosts or dens in its cavities
Give yourself and your mower a rest for at least a portion of your lawn so we've got a patch of taller grass to hide and forage in
Save just a little of that dead bramble thicket for us - it makes great winter cover and we don't need much!
Fall is a good time to plant shrubs, so replace invasive, exotic Himalayan and cutleaf blackberries with native plants of higher wildlife value like blackcap (native black raspberry) or red raspberry; native currants or gooseberries found in your area; or native roses such as Nootka or baldhip.
Pile up any brush or rocks you clear around your place to give us another option for nests and dens
Take it easy on yourself and let go of the "perfect" garden image; we wild animals like less tidy, "fuzzy" places because there's usually more food and shelter there
Get yourself a comfortable chair, sit back, and congratulate yourself on having made a home for wildlife and a haven of relaxation for yourself!
Plant Propagation on a Shoestring by Jeanie Taylor, native plant propagation expert and owner of Taylor Gardens
Eastside Subchapter of the WA Native Plant Society Tuesday, September 16, 7:30pm Redmond Regional Library Meeting #1 15990 NE 85th Street, Redmond
If your green thumb is itching to get to work, this native plant propagation talk and hands-on seed demonstration will get you started. Jeanie Taylor will discuss... some simple rules of seed propagation. Beginning with seed collection and processing guidelines, her talk and demonstration will include how to handle different types of fruits and methods of extracting and cleaning seeds. She will also provide basic information on seed dormancy and why knowledge of this is important in the germination of native plant and why knowledge of this is important in the germination of native seeds.
Upcoming Program – Attracting Birds with Native Plants by Connie Sidles. Date: January or February – exact date and location to be determined. Watch for details in the Native Plant Press, on this Facebook page, (https://www.facebook.com/OurWesternWashingtonPlants)
and in upcoming emails. (If you would like to have your name added to our Eastside email list, contact email@example.com.)
Please join the Sammamish Community Wildlife Habitat Group and Sammamish Native Plant Stewards at this week's Sammamish Farmer's Market, 4:00 to 8:00 PM Sept. 10th. Information sheets, kids' activity sheets, and Ranger Rick magazines, and free native plants will be given out. See you there!
Come join your neighbors in restoring Sammamish city parks.
Illahee restoration Fall, 2013
Below are a listing of work parties that have been scheduled so far this fall.
Illahee Park Trail
on 9/20/14 9-noon
Come volunteer at
Illahee Park Trail! We will be working to remove invasive plants in an area
recently planted with native trees and shrubs. Help restore the Illahee wetland
and learn about native plants!
Ebright Creek on 9/27/14 1-4, 10/11/14 & 11/8/14
restoration project consists of steps to improve the ecosystem functions of the
urban forest surrounding Ebright Creek. Volunteers are needed in one of the
following three important tasks.
species such as Himalayan blackberries to give existing native plants a chance
to thrive and make a comeback.
cleared of blackberries with native plants to aid the comeback of native plants
and to prevent the re-growth of weeds and invasive species.
3.Maintain the site
to keep invasive species at bay.
Volunteer to improve habitat at Sammamish Landing with Friends of the
Cedar River Watershed and City of Sammamish! Sammamish Landing contains invasive
plants that threaten to spread and degrade habitat. Volunteers will work to
restore this important shoreline to a more natural and sustainable state by
planting and mulching native trees and shrubs in an area cleared of invasive
blackberry and ivy this summer. Join us along the lake this fall to continue
The Friends of the
Cedar River Watershed works hard to engage people to enhance and sustain
watersheds through restoration, education and stewardship.