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Leaves and Nutrients

Posted: Wed Nov 10, 2004 12:34 am
by opabinia51
Does anyone have information on what nutrients different leaves have for them? I'm especially interested in Maple, Apple, Hazelnut, Pear, Oak and Cherry.

I am aware that leaves add Nitrogen to the soil/compost but, I'm interested in what other elements they add.

Posted: Wed Nov 10, 2004 11:20 am
by The Helpful Gardener
While the leaves do add trace elements and some base proteins, it's not so much the other elements that are added directly, but the nutrients made available to other biologicals like endo and ecto-mycorrhizae that is the real boon in adding compost. You are adding life to a rather lifeless medium; organisms that will develop symbiotic relations with your target crops to help them with utilization of food sources, water and gas exchange, as well as colonize the soil to the point of exclusion of unwelcome biologicals. So it's not really about adding to the nutrients, but making the ones there more available and making the soil a safer place for your plant...

Here's a website featuring an article from the twenties that shows how much we knew then about organics; makes you wonder why we never really caught on to this sooner (OOH! OOH! Cuz you can't manufacture and sell humus as easily as chemicals? :?: :!: :evil: )

Ain't organics a kick in the pants? :D


Posted: Mon Nov 15, 2004 5:08 pm
by opabinia51
Back on to nutrients of leaves. I have contacted a prof at my local University and he is not aware of any literature on nutrients in leaves :roll: but did say that the nutrients in leaves of a species are highly variable and depend on light, time of year, nutrient uptake and so on.
Anyway, I will continue the search and perhaps end up doing some Gas Chromatography just to finally settle my curiousity.

If anyone knows any information, I would realy appreciate them posting it.

Posted: Tue Nov 16, 2004 12:36 pm
by The Helpful Gardener
Hey now!

Access to the Flash Gordon goodies, eh? 8) Comfrey (Symphytum officianalis) is always touted by the herbal and organic folks as the best leaf to start compost or make a tea from; I'd love to see if you can find a difference between it and other leaves that would indeed set it apart. That would be a good starting place to look from for other valuable leaf matter.


Posted: Sun Nov 21, 2004 9:31 pm
by opabinia51
Recieved some information in an organic gardening Newsletter that I recieve:

As far as leaves and nutrients are concerned: Leaves add both Nitrogen and Phosphorus to the soil. Also, through the vast amounts of research that I have been doing on this topic I have also found that if you add leaf mulch to your soil, that maple leaves increase the soil's water capacity by 200 to 500 percent. Basically, you won't have to water as often.
All the more reason to make leaf mold and add it to your garden. Or you can simply put layers of leaf mulch, seaweed and manure like I do.

Posted: Mon Nov 22, 2004 3:50 pm
by The Helpful Gardener
I have been piling leaves on all the areas I plan to turn into borders this spring; doing double-duty killing the grass and weeds and I'll just turn them in this spring (this is to be a native plant area so I don't need to get too fussy...)


Posted: Sun Nov 28, 2004 6:59 am
by lash
Use your weeds, if you pull them put them pack on top may want to leave them in a bucket for few days prior this.. or just slash them. ....

Posted: Wed Dec 01, 2004 7:44 am
by The Helpful Gardener
Not so keen on using the weeds unless you are comfortable in determining whether or not any seed has set or if it's something like vermont weed that will just run everywhere...


Posted: Mon Dec 06, 2004 1:36 am
by opabinia51
I always pick any weeds from my garden before they go to seed and thus, I don't have to worry about any seeds ending up in my compost. I also have a large piece of clear plastic which I have stapled blocks of wood in each corner that I place over the compost and leaf mold piles to keep unwanted seeds and rain out. Seems to work quite well. :wink: :P

FYI: Carrot leaves add Magnesium and Potassium to your compost chickweed adds Calcium, Potassium and Phosphorus. And I think I've already mentioned that Kelp (the wonder Chromistan) adds: Sodium, Iodine, Nitrogen, Magnesium, Calcium and Iron to your compost. Kelp also contains large amounts of Vitamin C. I'm not sure if plants take Vitamin C up but, it's there.

Posted: Tue Dec 14, 2004 9:48 am
by The Helpful Gardener
I've piled compost on top of my leaves now; these beds should be very nice by spring...

Posted: Fri Dec 31, 2004 3:28 pm
by opabinia51
Do you mean that you had originally put leaves or leaf mulch on your beds and now you have put compost on top of that? Cool, I might try that next year.

Though, currently I am saving my compost to put in the area where I am going to grow corn. But hopefully, I will have a lot more compost next year than I have this year. :D

Posted: Mon Jan 10, 2005 3:05 pm
by The Helpful Gardener
Yep that's it Opa...

My buddy Lisa (with whom I do the occasional radio show) is my organic source and she's a big fan of no till/ lasagna gardening. Let the worms do the work! :lol:


Posted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 7:46 pm
by opabinia51
Yes, no till. That is an extremely interesting idea. I can muse the understand behind the theory of no till. But, I am still perplexed by one small benefit of rotatilling ones garden in that rotatilling does break up any large clumps of undecayed material in your garden. :?
Of course the bad side of tilling is that it breaks up the mycelia of fungi and disturbs colonies of bacteria and shreds worms that are doing the decaying. :? It's an interesting dichotomy. My plan was to till my garden on March 1st then, plant clover and till again on April or more likely May 1st and then do my planting. :idea: I think I'll still do that as the soil (last year) was so nutrient depleted that I want to add as much to it as I can but, in future years... this not till idea could take form.

Posted: Mon Jan 17, 2005 6:16 pm
by The Helpful Gardener
Always nervous about those weeds; dormant seed can lay for a century. I throw my bad guys in the trash...


Posted: Mon Jan 24, 2005 2:34 pm
by opabinia51
Yes, weeds don't scare me that much. I can always just pull them out anyway. Actually, after placing all that mulch on my Vegetable Garden last Fall/Winter, I have had virtually no weeds in my Garden. And after planting my Fall Rye as a cover crop, I had very few weeds. My guess is that my spring cover crop (White clover) will have the same effect. (At least, that is my hope).
And as I said; weeds don't scare me that much and they actually make me happy as they add to the biomass of my compost pile.

Actually, at my Organic Gardening Club meeting (yesterday) I had an epiphany of sorts. This idea of NO TILL GARDENING really took form in my mind. A lecturer on Permaculture talked about a community garden in town that he had developed from a vacant gravel lot. They did no tilling whatsoever and just layed vegetable/othe plant wastes over the gravel and let nature do it's thing. A year later they had this amazing garden there. So, I am now rethinking tilling my garden.

Posted: Thu Jan 27, 2005 3:00 pm
by opabinia51
Here are some Nutrient Values for various types of fruit tree leaves:

8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) :lol: 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8)
Apple: Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Boron, Zinc, Copper and Iron

Pear: Nitrogen, Boron

Cherry: Nitrogen

Prune: Nitrogen

Plum: Nitrogen

Stone Fruits: Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Boron, Zinc, Copper and Iron

Very useful for composting/Lasagna Gardening. I don't have any figures for Maple Leaves but, I have been told that they are incredibly high in nutrients.

Posted: Fri Jan 28, 2005 5:25 pm
by The Helpful Gardener
Tilling works once and then it's a detriment; no till is the way to go...


Posted: Sat Jan 29, 2005 5:21 pm
by opabinia51
Yes, I agree. As posted above, I have decided to do no tilling whatsoever. I am going to turn the soil over (after the clover has been mowed a few times) though. I have read that the true die hard "No Tillers" don't even turn the soil over with a shovel but, with White and Red (crimson) Clover, Alfalfa and Fall Rye I pretty much have to turn the soil over. Lest, have massive infestations of Dynamic Accumulators. :cry:

Posted: Thu Feb 24, 2005 5:35 pm
by opabinia51
OAK, RHODODENDRON, ROSE LEAVES and so on..... Yes, often people try to compost these leaves with little success. If you have a worm bin all you need to do is cut them up a bit and the worms will do the rest. Four months later you will have lovely soil. BUT, if you just have an outdoor, open air compost pile.... these and other leaves with a heavy cuticle and take forever to compost... I have even heard of people coming back a year later and finding; the same leaves just sitting there. Not a good thing.
So, what do we do? I mean, the leaves are just loaded with nutrients that would be great to have in our gardens. Well, here is the answer: Spread the leaves out on your lawn and pass over them a few times with your lawn mower. It will make a really nice mulch out of the leaves that you can put on your compost pile and about 8 months later.... VOILA! Beautiful soil that you can spread on your garden.

Posted: Fri Feb 25, 2005 10:29 am
by The Helpful Gardener
Hear, hear!

Posted: Thu Mar 03, 2005 1:12 pm
by opabinia51

Granite Dust: 0/0/3.0-5.5
Grape Leaves: 0.45/0.1/0.4
Grass: 1/0/1.2
Cherry Leaves: 0.6/0/0.7
Peanut Shells: 3.6/0.15/0.5
Shrimp Wastes: 2.9/10.0/0
Sea Weed: 0.2/0.4/0
Tea Grounds: 4.15/0.62/0.4
Tomatoe Leaves: 0.35/0.1/0.4

Posted: Fri Mar 04, 2005 8:57 am
by The Helpful Gardener
Has to be more to this granite dust than just the NPK value; perhaps the silicate content contributing to cellular wall construction? Opa, do you have any other ideas for why folks are seeing such great results with the stone powder?

Posted: Fri Mar 04, 2005 1:08 pm
by opabinia51
Cell walls are not made from Silicates they are made from Carbon compounds.

Posted: Tue Mar 08, 2005 12:44 pm
by The Helpful Gardener
Obviously my plant science and biochemistry skills are lacking; if my poor stab at an answer wasn't bad enough, then the stupor that came over me as I tried to absorb some of those organic chemistry diagrams clinches it.

MY word Opa, how do you deal with that stuff on a daily basis? Do you have a huge bifurcated cranium like some Star Trek extra? Crib sheets? Is it the shoes? It's the shoes, isn't it... :roll:

P.S. How do plants like Equisetum pick up silicates in their structure? Brassica is also famous for picking up metals; what gives? (No more chemistry diagrams please! :oops: :cry: :evil: )


Posted: Tue Mar 08, 2005 12:57 pm
by opabinia51
That's funny, I like that. Yes, it is the shoes.

Actually, I often forget about the fact that I have several years of intensive study and base knowledge when it comes to chemistry and biology. This often happens when I am tutoring highschool students in either subject.

On the topic of Rock Phosphate: I have read in several books that it is the Potassium that is the wonder element. It certainly makes sense with the winter hardiness that you described.

Here is a great book that I am currently reading: THE BOOK OF GARDEN SECRETS by Dorothy Hinshaw and Diane E. Bilderback.

Posted: Wed Mar 09, 2005 12:12 pm
by The Helpful Gardener
Sounds like a great book...

Posted: Sun Mar 13, 2005 2:31 pm
by opabinia51
SILICATES: Silicates would be in solution with the water in the soil and would be taken up through the roots as are most other nutrients.

Posted: Tue Jun 28, 2005 4:29 pm
by opabinia51
This isn't a specific post for any particular tree leaves but;

Leaves contain many of the essential trace mineral elelments that the long, pentrating tree roots have retrieved from the deep subsoil. In addition to the basic nutrients that all plants need-NPK leaves also have such minerals as Boron, Cobalt and Magnesium in smaller amounts.

If you plan on using leaf mulch in your garden, leaves are easily mulched by running over them with the lawnmower once or twice.
And while you are at it, don't bag up all the dead heads from your Rhodos. Just lay them out on your lawn or driveway and go over them with your lawn mower. They make a great addition to the soil.

Posted: Thu Jun 30, 2005 10:40 am
by Grey
I think it fits just fine, and tho I haven't said anything until now (because some of it went over my head for a while and I had to read up on some other stuff to catch up) I think it's great.

My plants thank you both. :)

Posted: Thu Jun 30, 2005 8:10 pm
by opabinia51
Thanks Grey, I was curious as to what you thought was just fine?

I hope your plants are doing really well.
I'm actually going out on a coffee grind excursion tomorrow. (Basically, a trip to get 5 or more bags of coffee grounds and a bag or two of coffee bean chaff from my special place.)

Posted: Fri Jul 01, 2005 12:32 pm
by Grey
Hey Opa, I was referring to your post before mine, where you were defending that your post fit with the thread topic. I was just backing you up. ;)

My plants are doing fine so long as they are in pots - still experimenting with the soil (ahem -- CLAY) here. I've found the easiest thing to break it up with is mostly decomposed wood chippings. It should decompose the rest of the way pretty quick with as much moisture as clay holds in it. In the meantime I'm adding nitrogen (commercial for now - not my fave but until I have my compost up and running, I think I am stuck. For now.)

I'm thinking of putting up a sign this fall asking people for their leaves. We need mulch and compost really badly, and I have a good place for a giant mountain of leaves to sit for the winter, or even, chopped, I can use as mulch around beds. Some plants will need to be tucked in for the winter.

We have so much work to do...

Posted: Mon Jul 04, 2005 5:21 pm
by opabinia51
Yes, work is the organic gardener's life. But, I personally really enjoy doing all the work.

I personally have access to tonnes and tonnes of leaves (Apple, Cherry, Maple....). Hence the reason whey I started this thread. Last year I made a liitle pile of mulched up leaves for leaf mold but, the plan for this year is to do the lasagna gardening as usual, plus my compost pile but, to have a huge pile of mulched up leaves in the same spot where I did my leaf mold pile last year.

I have found (through the advice of the Pres of my Organic Gardening club :wink: ) that running over the leaves with the lawn mower really does a great job of mulching them up. Then, I just cover them up for the fall and Winter with some plastic to keep the excess rain out.

Also, if you have a lawn of any appreciable size; those clippings make great mulch for your beds as well. Good luck gardening Grey!!!!

Posted: Mon Jul 04, 2005 8:33 pm
by Grey
My "lawn" is all weeds. :(

I'm fighting years of neglect and abuse. The last folks who lived here had their power turned off and had bonfires in the backyard every night (and cooked over the fire, too). They had their huge firepit too close to a younger oak tree, whose limbs on that side are completely singed from the heat.

Their 4-wheeler apparently also caught fire in the backyard.

Before them was a couple that rode their motorcycle around the house - around and around and around...

Right now the only leaves I have collected are magnolia. I plan to chop them up and use them as mulch - unless you tell me there's something in them that wouldn't do well for that!

Posted: Mon Jul 04, 2005 10:00 pm
by opabinia51
Wow..... I guess the only word would be..... YIKES!!! I guess you have a lot of work on your hands.

I have not heard anything bad about Magnolia Leaves. You might want to do a quick google search on them. Something to the tune of Magnolia leaves AND composting.
I would recommend going over them with the mower. And as long as I am talking about a mower; if your lawn mainly consists of weeds, so does mine :roll: (which, I plan on ammending) and mowing weeds is just fine so long as they haven't gone to seed. In fact, Dandelions are great for the soil.
Good luck with your huge gardening project.

Actually, I would recommend planting Rye and Vetch or Buckwheat over the lawn first. The two grasses will choke out the weeds (a little shoveling before hand will help as well. Or just a rotatiller) Also, the Rye and Vetch are dynamic accumulators and after successive mowings (while leaving the clippings on the ground) will add nutrients to the soil that your eventual monocrop of a lawn will love.

And Rye (and I'm guessing Buckwheat) make nice lawns in the interm. I personally plant Rye and Clover in my Veg Garden as cover crops.

Oh yes, and the organic matter from the cover crops will increase the permeability of the your clay soil. If you can get a bunch of them from your neighbours (canadian spelling :wink: ) mulched up leaves will be great for breaking up the clay in your yard. Just apply them directly to the infected soil but be sure to add some manure, coffee grinds or grass clippings to the leaves as well or the soil organisms will take Nitrogen from the soil to break down the leaves. Best to give them a supply of Nitrogen from the "GREENS."

Posted: Tue Jul 05, 2005 9:13 am
by Grey
Rye is on my list to plant in early October as a cover crop, and then we were going to till it in with as much organic matter as we can get our hands on in the early Spring. From there my hubby will work on his grass ;).

I've been keeping the weeds mowed pretty tight (helps hide the fact they are weeds, at least from the road). If I let them get to where I think there may be seed, I put the bag on the mulching mower and dump 'em in a heap in the corner. I want them to sit there for a looooooong time so I know the seeds are dead. lol.

Now: all those wood ashes from years of bonfires: they heaped piles of ash in an overgrown area, and I say if not even ivy is willing to grow on them, it's going to take a lot to make that useable. As I understand wood ash, it's great in small doses but large quantities are something entirely different. Can I gradually scatter that all over the yard, or am I best off (since I really have no idea what they were burning) finding a way to dispose of them?

I'm doing a search on composed Magnolia leaves shortly - will post the results!

Posted: Tue Jul 05, 2005 5:25 pm
by The Helpful Gardener
Magnolia leaves are sturdy things and will take a good deal of time to break down I suspect. Scrounge lawn clippings from the neighbors (if they have lawns; you are NOT painting a pretty picture of your neighborhood between ATV fires and dirt tracking in the yard :shock: )


Posted: Tue Jul 05, 2005 5:42 pm
by opabinia51
I like that icon Scott.

With the Magnolia leaves, I think if you go over them with the mower a few times to break them up to a fine mulch, they should be fine. I do that with Arbutus and Rhododendron leaves and they compost just fine.

With regard to wood ashes. I have always put the leftover ashes from my smoker into my worm bins and never had any problems. But, I have read that wood ashes can harbour diseases and be toxic to plants. You could bury most of them away from your garden and they won't cause any problems. And not to mention use small amounts in your trench compost.

Posted: Wed Jul 06, 2005 10:01 am
by Grey
lol - Scott, we bought the worst house on the block! It was a rental, and the landlord wasn't so great at picking tenants. I have really great neighbors - with lawns and landscaping, no less! They were afraid to try to sell their homes for YEARS yet couldn't stand being near all that mess. They're very happy we've moved in and are fixing things up.

We are happy with the sale price - we've never had so tiny a mortgage - and that it came with the in-law suite (which is getting remodeled first, we'll move in there then work on the house)

It's okay if the magnolia leaves take a little while to compost, they'll look fine as a mulch and then I'll add grass and different leaves as fall comes in to play.

I'll bury those ashes then, Opa. :P My hubby had once read that potash was great for plants, and planted a couple of bushes right in the firepit at our old house. They died, of course. :cry:

Posted: Wed Jul 06, 2005 1:16 pm
by opabinia51
Yes, when you bury the ashes be sure to add some of your composting weeds to them such that everything will compost away nicely. Eventually,you may end up with some really nice soil there.

Posted: Sat Jul 09, 2005 1:12 pm
by The Helpful Gardener
Spread evenly over a large area the ash would be okay, just not in mass in a concentrated area where it would adjust the PH to unhealthy levels...