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In the fall, leaves go down in blazes of glorious colors, their beauty being their second to last contribution to the trees that grew them. Their final contribution is when they rot back in the soil, returning nutrients to the trees.
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This is the time to collect seeds from the Louisiana state flower, the magnolia.
In October, the main thing gardeners tend to do with plants is admire them. It’s hard to believe anything can look so beautiful as it dies, as leaves do. They go down in blazes of glorious colors, their beauty being their second to last contribution to the trees that grew them. Their final contribution is when they rot back in the soil, returning nutrients to the trees.
If you haul away these leaves, then you are denying your trees what is rightfully theirs. They might make you pay for it by getting weaker and dropping branches on your yard, fence and home. Don’t be surprised if it seems they are aiming their falling branches toward your structures. Burning the leaves in the yard is a way to make them decompose fast, but makes a lot of smoke; and the pile may smolder for days, needing lots of stirring. This is also dangerous as half-lit leaves may blow around looking for a target to ignite.
Mulching machines and composters are nice, but not necessary. Leaves know how to rot just fine on their own, thank you. Compost piles near the trees can be the simplest way to let the trees keep their nutrients without letting your yard and everything in it get buried. If you just rake the leaves in a pile, the wind would scatter them again. It would be like cleaning the house with a toddler around. So, to keep the yard clean and feed the trees, the leaves need their own playpen. These can easily be made by wiring some fencing wire in a circle. The height and size are up to you. You may want several little ones strategically placed around the yard or just a few big ones. They should be made of wire that is tough and has small holes so leaves won’t blow through. Hardware cloth and poultry netting have little holes, but tend to rust fairly quickly and won’t likely stand up by themselves in a circle without support. Sixteen-gauge galvanized wire mess with holes an inch or less works well and lasts for many years.
If you have livestock, leaves make good winter bedding. Once those leaves have been soiled, you can rake them back up and bring them to a compost pile around the trees they came from, paying back the trees with interest.
Sometimes people plant trees in October, and with extra care and watering that can work, but it’s best to wait until at least November when the plants are more likely to be completely dormant. Transplanting a tree is like performing surgery, and most of us would agree it’s optimal to be totally asleep when one is having surgery.
This is the time to collect seeds from the Louisiana state flower, the magnolia. To help the seeds grow, take them from their cones before they dry out, soak them in water over night, gently rub away the red protective coating and plant immediately. Alternatively, you can put them in the fridge for the winter, preferably in a bag with some moist peat moss, then plant in the spring. Seeds from non-hybrids work the best. If you aren’t sure if you have a hybrid variety, plant a lot of extra seeds since there’s a chance only a few will sprout.
While enjoying relaxing in the cooler weather, keep in mind this is the last month that is considered good for taking semi hardwood cuttings for rooting. It’s also a good idea to change out the mulch around the trees, especially if it’s been there a while, because pest insects have likely decided you made a nice bed for them to get all snuggly in through the winter. Otherwise, be sure to harvest all the cold sensitive crops before the first frost. Usually the initial frost isn’t until at least Nov. 5, but they have happened sooner.
By Dori Herndon