Within recent days the first of the autumn leaves have started to fall.
Leaves on some trees will fall within a few days while other leaves will take several weeks to completely fall from the trees. In some cases, especially with young trees and with some tree species, leaves may not fall until late in the winter season.
If leaves fall on your lawn, they need to be removed within some reasonable period of time to allow the grass to continue to grow (and build strong root systems for winter). However, it is a judgment call as to when to rake leaves if more are going to fall soon.
Leaves can be raked or gathered in a lawnmower bagging system. Leaves that are picked up with your lawnmower will be finely shredded and somewhat compacted, making them take up less room than whole leaves.
Leaves, as a general rule, don't make a very effective winter mulch since they tend to compact into a fine layer (that can become almost impervious to water). Thus, be careful when using a thick layer of leaves as a winter mulch unless the leaves are mixed with some other coarser organic materials such as straw or old hay.
In compost piles, leaves will also form a dense, tightly packed layer that becomes difficult to compost. Mixing the leaves with other materials or shredding the leaves (especially if you mix in a little soil with the shredded leaves) will greatly improve the composting ability. Leaves also are a little short of nitrogen so mixing in a little high-nitrogen fertilizer, manure, or blood meal will also improve the composting ability.
Storing summer bulbs
Winter is approaching and gardeners need to start thinking about storage of bulbs that will not survive our Kansas winters. The bulbs of gladiolus, caladium, dahlia, tuberous begonia, calla lily and canna lily need to be dug and stored so they can be planted next year.
Actually, the storage organ of the above plants is not a true bulb. Canna and calla lilies are rhizomes, caladium and tuberous begonias are tubers, gladiolus is a corm and dahlia is a tuberous rooted plant. All of these plants should be dug after frost has browned the foliage. Then, allow them to dry for about a week in a shady, well-ventilated site such as a garage or tool shed. Remove any excess soil and pack them in peat moss, vermiculite or perlite. Make sure the bulbs don't touch so that if one decays, the rot doesn't spread to its neighbors. Dusting them with fungicide before storage will help prevent them from rotting.
Caladium should be stored between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit; the remaining bulbs mentioned should be stored near 40 degrees. Finding a good spot to store the bulbs may be difficult. Some people place them against a basement wall farthest from the furnace and insulate them so that the wall keeps them cool.
-- The Garden Calendar is sponsored by K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County office and written this week by Dennis Bejot, county extension director. For more information call the extension office, 843-7058.