Wednesday, May 22, 2013

County: Use Leaves to Stop Weeds

Comment to the Josephine County Commissioners, 9-26-12. 

Honorable Commissioners:
          Pine needles are falling, beginning the major leaf fall from which this season gets its name.  This is the time for the County to change its leaf management and start using our leaves on site as much as possible to suppress weeds in shrub and flower borders. 
          Schroeder Park is a case in point.  The junipers alongside the tennis courts at the upper end are full of wild lettuce and blackberries that need to be pulled and cut.  Leaves should be spread between the bushes to stop the lettuce from germinating next year, and to feed and soften the soil for taking out the blackberries and other weeds in the spring.
          Leaves must be removed from pavements and lawns, though there is no city code mandating it.  Apparently, when the City was concerned with landscape nuisances in the 60’s, it went without saying that people would pick up their leaves before the last one falls, especially from streets and sidewalks.  They smother grass and create safety hazards and eventually soil on pavements.  They should be left on bare soil, and more added from the lawns and pavements.
          Here around the courthouse, we have narrow, mounded beds with slopes.  But our locust trees have small leaflets that will cling to those beds, and they should be blown into them, not cleaned out of them.  Larger leaves will stay in the larger beds around the courthouse and library, and those beds should be fed and protected with the leaves that are readily available.
          Up on Dimmick, we have an abandoned hospital with trees, lawn, shrub borders, and a parking lot across the street that is full of wild lettuce and blackberries.  The lettuce needs to be pulled and the borders where it grows needs to be mulched with the leaves and needles in the lot, just as the hospital’s shrub borders need to be mulched with the leaves that fall nearby.
          Oak leaves, pine needles, sweet gum, locust, and other tough leaves are great for weed suppression because they stick around for a good year or more.  Walnut leaves, which are not tough, are even better because they suppress weed germination long after they are eaten by worms, due to the jugalone in them that stops germination of small seeds.  But even softer leaves that are eaten by midsummer are useful for stopping winter weed germination.  All leaves should be used, not wasted on Jo Gro.  Raking them out of beds is unnecessary labor and expense.
          (Since this speech, weeds were cut in the Dimmick parking lots.)       

Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener         541-955-9040

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