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Leaves, leaves, and more leaves

What have you done with your leaves? At the Memphis Zoo, the Horticulture Department collects our leaves at the end of the “drop season.” This started due to the Dinosaur experience. We saved the leaves to use as a mulch to conceal our equipment. The leaves were left at the end of the season and we discovered in September a wonderful pile of composted material which we call leafy bits.

 

Uses
 We use the “leafy bits” compost as mulch on our flower beds and around our tree circles. It provides organic nutrients to the soil that has been depleted through the year. In every annual bed, we add a two to three inch layer and till to a depth of six to eight inches. We then rake it smooth and plant annuals or perennials.   

How to save your leaves
We have a wonderful staff that uses backpack blowers to blow our leaves into a huge pile. After the pile has been formed, we bring a truck with a leaf vacuum. The leaf vacuum sucks up the leaves and cuts them up to smaller pieces. The Memphis Zoo has a large variety of leaves such as sycamore, sweet gum, mulberry, hackberry, birch, oaks, maples, magnolias, gingko, and pines. After our truck is full of leaves, we unload in an area away from the public view that allows the leaves to break down. We push the piles together and allow them to cook. Our pile is quite huge and unwieldy. We do not turn the pile or keep it watered. Some of the leaves start wet and it rains somewhat throughout the summer months. Nature has done a wonderful job of creating compost from our leaves. 

Instructions from the City of Nashville, TN on backyard composting, recommend using a combination of kitchen waste, grass clippings and leaves. You can go to this website for further information We are using the material that best suits our needs and our compost pile is nearly pure leaves with some sticks.  In other words, we use what is available.   

How do you know when your compost is ready to use
You can tell by when the smell emitted is a fresh, earthy scent. The feel of leafy bits compost is crumbly, moist, and packed together. The look is all black gold. 

On your next visit to the Memphis Zoo, check the gardens to see if you notice our leafy bits mulch. The soil is improved with the addition of nutrients. The plants are happier with the infusion of organic matter to the soil. You will be happier saving the leaves from the landfill and providing nutrients for a beautiful garden.   We look forward to seeing you during your next visit at the Memphis Zoo.

Posted by Zoo Info at 2:36 PM

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