Fallen Leaves As Mulch & Pot Cleaner

Question:

 I'm confused about using leaves as mulch in my garden. Although it's a universally recommended practice to put leaves in the compost pile, some say that you should leave them around shrubs, perennials, etc., while others say to remove them from the garden because they can bring pests?     Which is correct?                       

Answer:

  • Actually, both scenarios are correct.
  • With the fall leaf drop, there is a concern when the leaves are left on turf and low-growing ground covers for an extended time. The fallen leaves and other material will mat down during the rainy season, covering the desirable vegetation. The lack of light will eventually kill the plants.
  • Around trees, shrubs, and open areas, I'd remove the organic matter around the trunk or base of the plants. And then it's a matter of personal choice about the rest of the canopy. Many gardeners have it removed because they like the tidy look; others don't care.
    • I prefer to remove all the leaves around ornamental trees, shrubs, and open areas so I can put down a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent all the weed seeds that have blown in during the summer months from germinating. It's a bit late now as the unwanted vegetation is already sprouting. It can be argued that the leaves suffocate this unwanted vegetation. And that is true, but it can be spotty because you should have at least an inch of material covering the soil surface.
    • Also, with weeds emerging, there is no need to wait until spring to do something about them. You could cultivate them or apply a nonselective, post-emergent herbicide. There is no hurry right now as they are growing slowly. But by, February, the growth accelerates with warmer temperatures and longer days.
  •  Another issue with leaving the leaves all winter is that they're terribly hard to clean up. It's like they have been glued to the soil surface. I made that mistake once and vowed never to do that again. That was after hours of scrapping the leaves off the ground.

Question:

I recently cleaned some clay pots to store them until next spring. Already two clay pots have a mold or fungus or something growing on them. What can I use to get rid of the unwanted material, so it doesn't grow back? What would you use to kill and remove the substance? Would vinegar work?  

Answer:

  • Clay pots are porous, so they hold moisture. The Moss grows when the conditions are moist and cool. You could use vinegar to kill the Moss or you could just scrub it off with a wire brush. The pots are then set out in the afternoon sun to dry out. This may be a problem if the weather is wet and damp. Another method is to put the pots in an oven for thirty minutes at 275 to 300 degrees. If you wish, you can waterproof terra-cotta pots with a sealer such as Plaid Clay Pot Sealer, available online at Amazon or at Michael's.