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ANOTHER GREAT USE FOR FALL LEAVES

Now is the time every store runs out of those giant garbage bags. Catalogs are full of contraptions to hold bags open while you stuff them with leaves. Here is an idea that makes better use of those leaves, will save you money and help you create a new garden bed.

I used this method last year to start a new vegetable patch in the middle of an overgrown field of weeds. Not only was I able to plant without having to spend a lot of time digging, tilling or raking, but I created a weed free, artistically shaped bed in the middle of nowhere.

The first step is to decide where you want your new garden to be. Next, what size and shape should it be? A semi-circle or half moon may fit just right, or maybe you want to try something a little more unusual. It's easy to see how the new bed will look. Using flour or crushed lime, draw the shape you want on the ground.

The great thing about this method is, that if you don't like the way it looks, rake the flour or lime and start over again. Over time, the flour and lime will wash into the soil without any harm. Or use leaves to mark out the new bed. A thick coat of leaves will kill any existing grass and can be turned under in spring as you prepare the bed for planting. These leaves will decompose and enrich the soil.

If you plan on making a new vegetable bed, you might want to use the leaves in a different manner.

Once you are happy with your layout, dig a trench around the pattern. The trench should be roughly 4-6 inches deep. If you are digging up a grassy area, take the sod you dig out of the trench and turn it upside down on the new bed. If the entire area is grassy, save your back from digging it all up by using newspapers to kill the grass.

Take six to eight sheets of newspaper and layer them on top of the grass. Wet the newspapers to keep them from blowing away. Cover the newspapers with your leaves, mulch, grass clippings, bark chips, hay or any weed free materials. This will keep the papers in place.

By next spring, the grass will be dead, and you'll be ready to plant. Dig a hole right through the leaves and paper and plant. At the end of the season, pull the spent plants out and turn them under right in that spot. They will act as compost for the garden. Replace any newspaper that decomposed, add another layer of leaves and you are ready for the next planting season.

Something you may want to do before covering your new bed with leaves is a soil test. You can get soil test kits through catalogs and at many garden centers. They are simple to use, and will tell you the acidity of your soil. Many people use this method regularly in their gardens. The paper and leaves keep all the weeds out, and eventually decompose in the garden. Each season they add new papers and mulch to replace was has decomposed. The soil in these beds never needs to be tilled or turned over because it stays loose.

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