November 3, 2013

Maine Gardener: Time for fall garden cleanup

By Tom Atwell

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That brings us to leaves. Usually sometime in early November, I will mow the lawn with my bagger on, and spread the chopped leaves onto the vegetable garden, to a thickness of an inch or two. Running the leaves through the mower chops the leaves up enough so they will break down during the first part of the growing season.

Whole leaves, especially whole oak leaves, do not break down easily. Chopped leaves don’t make your garden pH acid; they just make your garden soil nice and workable.

In late November when the last leaves have fallen we will use actual lawn rakes to remove the rest of the leaves. Actually raking helps remove thatch from the lawn, is better for picking up acorns and is a lot quieter than leaf blowers or vacuums. We rake the leaves onto tarps and haul them off to be composted, some on our own property and the rest at the town compost center.

Then, it’s time to get ready for Christmas. I’ve already pruned out a living Christmas tree.

Tom Atwell has been writing the Maine Gardener column since 2004. He is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth and can be contacted at 767-2297 or


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