Mulching with Leaves

Question: I have been told that cut up leaves are good for flower beds. So this year I had the mower cut up the leaves and had them dumped on the flower beds. When is the best time to work them into the soil? Should I do it now or wait until spring? Another question: I have many pots around my house and patio. What about changing the potting soil? Is this something that should be done every year? Every five years? I would appreciate any help you can give me.

Answer: Work the leaves into the soil when the ground becomes workable in the spring, taking care not to damage any existing perennials or spring bulbs. In the future, you can do this in either fall or spring. Chopped leaves add important nutrients and improve soil structure.

If your container plants have any diseases, the soil should be discarded at the end of the growing season. If your plants appear healthy, the soil can be saved and reused but realize the nutrient level is depleted with each year of growth. A liquid or granular fertilizer program should be followed when reusing soil. Also, the soil should be loosened before replanting each year. Every few years, or when plants seem to grow less rapidly, replace the soil with fresh potting mix.

-Beverly Shaw, Advanced Master Gardener Purdue University