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Posted on Sat, Nov 6, 2010 : 12:24 p.m.

A blanket of leaves tucks in the garden

By Jim and Janice Leach

For the last couple of weeks, we have spent some of our 20 minute gardening sessions gathering leaves from our yard and some of our neighbors’yards. 

Some bagged leaves are keeping dry in our barn for use next season, and some leaves have gone directly into our compost bins. A nice thick blanket of leaves now covers most of our garden beds. They will nourish the soil as they break down over the winter and discourage some of the weeds from popping up in the spring.

Here’s a handy technique we use for keeping the leaves we have rounded up in the garden bed. When we are planting in the spring, we usually put a ring of marigolds around the edge of our large bed, which is a circle 12 feet in diameter. Marigolds are one of Jim’s favorite flowers, and we both like the look of the ring of flowers. They provide a bit of color early in the growing season and develop into a pretty hedge surrounding the vegetables by mid-summer. We have also read that marigolds provide some natural insect repellent due to their not-so-attractive fragrance.

In the fall when we remove the spent plants in the garden bed and compost them ourselves or put them in yard bags, we leave the marigold ring standing. The marigolds serve as a natural fence for keeping the leaves corralled on the bed. In a couple of rains and frosts, the leaves start to mash down enough that they are no longer in danger of blowing away. It’s another sign that the garden is almost ready for a long winter’s nap.


Janice Leach | Contributor

Janice and Jim Leach garden a backyard plot in downtown Ann Arbor and tend the website 20 Minute Garden.



Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 9:32 p.m.

I put a band of marigolds around our garden. I bought them the first year, then have been harvesting the seeds around this time each year, and have free marigolds the next year. Easy and free for a couple hours work.

Monica Milla

Sun, Nov 7, 2010 : 2:43 p.m.

Love the marigold border idea; mine bloom pretty late into the season, too. The distance of my border edges is probably over a mile so it isn't practical for me to implement the Marigold Leaf Retainment System (tm, patent pending), but I think it's great for smaller beds, and would work well with mums, too! :) I need to steal more leaves.