Here in Virginia the leaves and pine needles are falling and temperatures are perfect for collection of what every gardener in the know — knows to be a gold mine for their garden: leaves and/or pine needles.
A Little Effort with a Big Payoff
Now is the time with a little looking and a little effort you’ll be able to collect an abundance of organic material that will turn to organic matter in your soil and feed your plants next year.
Driving Factor in Soil Restoration
Organic matter is the driving factor in the restoration of your soil from year to year. It replenishes what you have used. The organic material (called organic matter after it is decayed) you put in your garden now is like a deposit in a savings account that you will draw from next growing season when it is needed.
No matter how you’ve improved your soil in the past, you must continue the practice of adding organic material or eventually all your improvements will be reversed.
The breakdown of organic material to make organic matter is a slow process. The original material decomposes to about 10% of its original mass. So for every 100 pounds of material you get about 10 pounds of organic matter. But even in these small amounts, it is life for your soil. Miraculously, the beneficial effects come long before the level of organic matter in the soil rises.
Too Much O.M? (Organic Matter)
And in case you are concerned about getting too much O.M. in your soil as one of my readers was, you need not be. As almost every long-time gardener will tell you — the problem is more likely to be not being able to get enough!
If you are one of the lucky ones that has access to tons of organic material for your garden, you still need not worry about having too much O.M. as a result. And as long as you keep your soil covered with mulch so that the O.M. doesn’t oxidize away, it will be there at a time it is needed. Like in the savings account mentioned above.
In order to keep unwanted harmful chemicals from ending up in your soil—
If you collect material from other folks, try to make sure their trees (thus the leaves or needles) have not been sprayed with harmful chemicals.
To Compost or Not?
It’s a matter of preference. If you compost — fine. I don’t. I just put the leaves or pine needles in my garden on top of the beds that need them the most.
Pine Needles – Acid?
No need to be concerned about pine needles making your soil acid. They won’t. As they decay they become O.M. like anything else. When O.M. is added to soil it changes the ph towards neutral.
The gold is probably free for the taking or asking. The only thing you have to do is collect it and put it in your garden. When your plants are thriving next year, you’ll be glad you made the effort.