December 5, 2011 at 7:31 pm (Bird feeding, Bulbs, companion plantings, drought tolerant plants, Feeding, Hummingbird plants, Hummingbirds, Insects, Mini-Dwarf Fruit Trees, Natural Pest Control, northwest native plants, Pests, Plant Combinations, Plants, Shrubs, Spring-Blooming bulbs, Vegetable gardening, weather, Winter-blooming shrubs, Winter-Flowering plants)
Tags: leaf mulch, mulch for flower beds, mulch for vegetable beds, winter flowers
Over the weekend, our across-the-street neighbor was raking up the many Japanese Maple leaves from his gorgeous tree, and so I ran out and asked him if I could take the leaves for my garden beds, pretty please? He said yes (not the first time for this same reason, I might add), and so away we hauled a bunch of beautiful tiny orange and gold leaves to dress our flower and vegetable beds. Some photos to illustrate:
- Bulb bed mulched, Dec. 2011
A little bulb bed, tucked in for the winter with a couple of inches of Japanese Maple leaves for mulch.
Another flower bed mulched, Dec. 2011
In this bed I’ve left room around the rose on the left and daylilies on the right, and mulched over the top of where I have lots of bulbs planted. From garden writer Ann Lovejoy, I learned to mulch the bulb beds, because it helps to keep the upcoming spring flowers from getting mud splashed on them from incessant spring rain that we get here.
Fruit trees mulched for the winter. My fruit tree row, weeded (and I was aided in this by the neighbor's chickens who like to come over and visit--there must have been bugs that they were excited to eat there) and mulched with a couple of inches of leaf mulch. Dec. 2011
Vegetable bed mulched with Japanese Maple leaves, December 2011
It’s also a good idea to cover bare soil in your vegetable beds as well, and the leaves work great for this. In the upper left corner there are some bright green garlic leaves–I planted them several years ago, and even though they get pulled up every year, they keep coming back, and not a bad thing I might add. They are much more pungent than garlic from the grocery store.
Japanese Maple leaf mulch
Japanese Maples grow readily in the Pacific Northwest. They are gorgeous, there are many in smaller sizes, and they tend to grow unaffected by disease or pests, making them a winner for the garden. I like to use Japanese Maple leaves in my garden for several reasons:
They are already naturally small, so I do not have to chop them up like would have to do with full-sized maple leaves
They are free
They are amply available when I need them
In our climate, it tends to be best to use about a two-inch layer of leaves for mulching your flower and vegetable beds. Leave room around the plant crowns; don’t cover them with mulch. If you put more than two inches, it can sometimes become a haven for mice and other pests that like to live in the leaves if given the chance. I also like the small leaves better than large maple leaves, because the large leaves, if they are not chopped up fine, tend to stick together in our rainy climate and don’t break down very readily over the course of the winter, and they also become a haven for slugs, which will winter over and eat the plants that you have so carefully covered nearby.
Another type of “mulch”:
Outdoor containers covered in plastic, Dec. 2011
I just grouped my containers on the garage roof together, and covered them with several layers of clear plastic. Old clear shower curtains also work great for this, and are made from heavier plastic, which is better. Although it occasionally goes down as low as 18 degrees here, it is pretty rare, and this in times past has been enough protection to keep containers from splitting, and plants from dying in the containers. (Fingers crossed.)
Now here is a pretty plant combination (or two):
Gorgeous early winter foliage, December 2011
The yellow leaves are on a red-flowering currant, Ribes sanguineum, that I plan to begin shaping into an espaliered form on the wall. The brilliant red leaves adorn a Berberis thunbergii ‘Helmond Pillar’ barberry. This is a perfect plant if you are looking for a low-maintenance shrub to fill a tight and narrow spot in the garden. It reaches five feet tall but only two feet wide, and is great in a small garden. It’s deciduous, and it has semi-glossy burgundy leaves that turn green as they age, but still keep a burgundy undertone. It also gets bright orange and red seeds in the fall as well. I need to take a few more pictures of it, and will then present it in a “Through The Seasons” post.
Viola and feverfew, December 2011
As you can see, I haven’t gotten around to emptying the hanging baskets yet, (wanted to leave them til the last minute for the hummingbirds, because they had nasturtiums in them), but there are still some purple violas along with chartreuse feverfew. I may pull those out and transplant them in a protected spot in containers at the front of the house.
Some more plant hangers-on:
Snapdragons in December
Roses flying high in the sky, December 2011
A lone, bright pink 'Zephrin Drouhin' rose, Dec. 2011
And some winter-flowering plants:
Yellow forsythia and white viburnum, viburnum=hummingbird food, December 2011
I’ll do a post soon of holiday decorations!
Enjoy a break from gardening. I still have a couple of little chores left to do, but nothing major. The temperatures have definitely dropped–it’s ranging from the low to mid-40s during the days and down to low 30s at night, so I am on winter hummingbird patrol, putting the feeder out in the morning and bringing it in right after dark. Sun shining through the bright blue sky today–I love it!
Leave a comment if you like!