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underutilized resources

Post Number:#1  Unread postby michaels4gardens » Mon Apr 30, 2018 7:11 am


I spent the day researching growing ,and using information for various unusual plants, -on the internet.
I want to experiment with growing things in leaves.
The City collects and hauls off hundreds of tons of leaves each fall- according to what I read-- they will deliver some to home gardeners if they have safe and easy access for their big dump trucks... some people use them as mulch...
I think,- the leaves could be utilized for growing food plants. The Chinese Yam, "Dioscorea oppositifolia" - is a weed here [and many places] - The root and tubercles taste good, have just a little less calories than potato, a little more protein, vitamins, and minerals.
It is a very underutilized plant in the US. Since it is listed as "invasive" and "noxious" buy our Government agriculture people, they shouldn't mind if we eat it. I also want to see if Turmeric, Taro, and Tannier Spinach would grow in just leaves... I will probably want to experiment with potatoes also... The spent leaves would be great mulch for traditional gardens....
anyone ever tried growing vegetables in "just leaves" ???
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Re: underutilized resources

Post Number:#2  Unread postby Ferra » Mon Apr 30, 2018 7:53 am


My current experiment is growing oyster mushrooms in waste hay, rabbit tray sawdust, cardboard,etc. Leaves would probably work well too. In composting terms, oyster mushrooms eat mainly browns (wood, straw, paper, etc). And they require only a little extra nitrogen in the mix. People have reported good results growning them on coffee grounds, too.

I'll have to report back with results: I got my starter culture in, and because I am a cheapskate, I am going to split it between a few jars of sterilized feed oats to make it last longer before I start creating "Waste Hay Logs" of it. So odds are good I won't see a harvest for about another 12 weeks or so.

Edit: okay, so... Not a plant per se. But the closest this to one that I would be able to get to grow in just leaves up hear at least!
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Re: underutilized resources

Post Number:#3  Unread postby michaels4gardens » Mon Apr 30, 2018 8:33 am


Ferra wrote:My current experiment is growing oyster mushrooms in waste hay, rabbit tray sawdust, cardboard,etc. Leaves would probably work well too. In composting terms, oyster mushrooms eat mainly browns (wood, straw, paper, etc). And they require only a little extra nitrogen in the mix. People have reported good results growning them on coffee grounds, too.

I'll have to report back with results: I got my starter culture in, and because I am a cheapskate, I am going to split it between a few jars of sterilized feed oats to make it last longer before I start creating "Waste Hay Logs" of it. So odds are good I won't see a harvest for about another 12 weeks or so.

Edit: okay, so... Not a plant per se. But the closest this to one that I would be able to get to grow in just leaves up hear at least!


I love to grow mushrooms... especially those utilizing hardwood logs... an to me-- I think of every thing divided into plant and animal - so although not technically correct-- mushrooms are in my garden, and on my plate as a plant... [as I can't put hem in the animal kingdom] I have a recipe [for canning] cream of mushroom soup ,I am planing to try out when i get mushrooms and time...
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Re: underutilized resources

Post Number:#4  Unread postby akane » Mon Apr 30, 2018 1:37 pm


I'm not sure how well things would grow in just leaves. People do plant in hay bales though so that's plain, dried plant matter.

Leaves don't go to waste here. What the city collects is free from the landfill before or after citywide composting. They also compost all wood chips and so forth collected back from the city and have separate yard waste and vegetable scrap cans. Up to 5000lbs of materials at a time (my s10 holds 4000lbs of the leaf/mulch compost) will be loaded for you if you are paying to deliver your own load of extra recycling or for a small fee. Since glass has to be a separate container here that mine keeps getting stolen I just pay $5 to deliver a few tall garbage cans of glass and take compost every year. City limits has an animal waste compost pile size restriction that is rapidly met for making your own compost every year. I've avoided it some by composting in true burlap bags from the coffee shops or what the coffee shops have sent to the feed stores to be sold for $.10 each. Burlap breaks down with the compost material and let's moisture and air pass.
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Re: underutilized resources [municipal leaves]

Post Number:#5  Unread postby michaels4gardens » Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:44 am


May 16, --- I have been hauling tree leaves in to the little garden spot behind this rented house, and things are growing well .. in October, I hauled leaves from piles in the street that were waiting for the city to come and collect them- piling them in the furrows between the raised beds - this spring I tilled those in when I was preparing the garden spot.
Two weeks ago- I hauled in about 4 tons [or so] of leaves from the pile the city has accumulated from leaf collection [it is a huge pile] - I am doing an experiment to see how some crops will do planted on top of the soil,[or just barely into the soil enough to keep the transplants roots damp] under 8 inches of compacted leaves.The leaves were "compacted" when I put a piece of plywood over the beds to kneel on, while I was planting. I also piled leaves between the rows of our other crops- I am also planting in an area with no leaves on top of the soil, to do a "side by side" comparison. I am comparing two varieties of potato, one early, and one late, -- and sweet potato, .
I also came to the realization that the "gravel" on one edge of the garden, was not all limestone -the limestone gravel was easy to see as it was light colored. The "other gravel" appears to be the "coal cinder dumping ground" , from the many years of heating this house with coal- The heat source was changed to natural gas at least 20 years ago, now it is electric... so- ignoring the "toxic" qualities of Coal cinders and ash, - I will just assume, that between the coal, and the tree leaves- I won't have the "typical, mineral deficient", US garden soil...

May 20th -Found some plastic 50 gal barrels to plant in, so Chinese yam , potato, and sweet potato will be planted in "just Leaves" for comparison.

July 8th
Gardening, ... and the "Municipal leaves experiment"....
I played in the garden area a little. pulled some weeds, noticed that the potatoes are forming , pushing up some of the soil near the plants.
The Chinese yams [Dioscorea oppositifolia] planted directly in leaves are doing fairly well now, but it took them longer to get started, then the ones planted directly in soil- they are about 1/2 the size of the Chinese yam plants planted in garden soil.
The story is about the same for the Potato, and Sweet potato plants... except that the soil planted sweet potato plants are at least 4 x as big.
The "tropical Yam" [Dioscorea rotundata ] is growing very well planted in soil under a thick covering of leaves. I hope that it will "somehow" adapt to this climate fast enough to produce tubercles for planting more of these.... [according to the box,-the yam came from Ghana , on the east coast of central Africa, but - since tropical yams are also grown in South Florida, I have
some hope that it was just an old box..because yams coming from Africa are irradiated, and "almost never" grow..]
Of interest is the fact that the leaves piled over the Tropical Yam had "decomposed" by June 6th , and had to be renewed with another foot of leaves, Now it is July 8th, and the leaves are less than 1/3 the volume again. The pile of leaves on the ground in the garden area , has not changed very much in volume, and has not been added to. [This is a phenomenon I noticed when growing Yams in boxes, in "soiled horse bedding" IE: pine wood shavings, and horse manure,- when living in Florida]
The leaves piled over the Yam, "decomposed " in less than 1/4 the time it takes leaves piled in other places to "decompose".
I theorize, that the yam plant either produces an enzyme to "digest " the leaves, or somehow "encourages" the production of enzymes in the fungi , or protozoa growing in the leaves piled over it. ...an internet search produced nothing on the subject- but- I did find some research that shows- that "cellulase" [ an enzyme that breaks down ["digests"] cellulose] does not digest the tropical yam, until the yam is dried out [dead].
--- Cellulase is any of several enzymes produced chiefly by fungi, bacteria, and protozoans that catalyze cellulolysis, the decomposition of cellulose and of some related polysaccharides. [Wikipedia]
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Re: underutilized resources

Post Number:#6  Unread postby akane » Sun Jul 08, 2018 3:10 pm


Most breakdown of leaves is not decomposing by microscopic processes but actually ingestion by visible critters. I use that method in my bioactive reptile enclosures. Isopods aka rolly polly or pillbugs are a major cause of leaves disappearing. Along with springtails and some species of millipede that only live on specific tree leaves and bark or the fungus that grows to break down those species of tree. I have some oak eating feather millipedes native to the US. Between the 3 visible species they can demolish 4" of leaves in about 2-3weeks. If anything around or under the leaves provides cover and food for these critters to already have a population they will munch your leaves to frass fertilizer (insect poop) faster than composting and can account for differences in leaf breakdown. It enriches the soil quicker without much mold or any larger fungi like toadstools managing to grow. Similar to vermicomposting but on top of the soil with crawly things. Some colorful isopods even sell for $100s... Personally I'll stick to the plain grey and blue freebies instead of having dalmation spotted things I'll rarely see for that price. :lol:
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Re: underutilized resources

Post Number:#7  Unread postby Ghost » Sun Jul 08, 2018 4:09 pm


akane wrote: Isopods aka rolly polly or pillbugs are a major cause of leaves disappearing.

... a favorite food of guinea foul, and possibly other poultry.
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Re: underutilized resources

Post Number:#8  Unread postby akane » Mon Jul 09, 2018 11:03 pm


Ghost wrote:
akane wrote: Isopods aka rolly polly or pillbugs are a major cause of leaves disappearing.

... a favorite food of guinea foul, and possibly other poultry.

Yep my cleaners double as food for small birds and reptiles while cleaning up their waste. It would take a lot of isos for larger poultry. Not that you can't easily grow a ton of isos even more so than the mealworms that some people do.

Really they could be turned into a pretty efficient composting system with only a moderate heating requirement that you don't have with vermicomposting setups. I solved that to grow extra isopods by putting plastic bins with 2" of dirt on a wire shelf and attaching a heat lamp upside down to point at the bottom of the bins. Seed mats also work or it would be a non-issue outside in summer if you keep them from drying out. While they are most useful for plant matter they eat anything and wood shavings, sawdust, or manufactured wood products are about the only things they don't turn straight into a growing medium. 3 mulberry trees, 2 apple trees, and a huge ash tree doesn't even generate enough leaves to feed the extra bins until the next year. If I was just making soil instead of using them as feeder insects and putting the leaves in with sensitive inhabitants I'd be taking leaves from other people's yards but you never know how accurate people are about what has been sprayed on and around their yard.
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Re: underutilized resources

Post Number:#9  Unread postby michaels4gardens » Tue Jul 10, 2018 6:24 pm


I looked through the decomposing leaves around the yam plant , very few pill bugs, or the like, and surprisingly ,hardly any earth worms .I found a few glow worms, maybe they ate the pill / sow bugs. The leaf piles in the garden that are "decomposing" much more slowly have tons of earth worms and quite a few pill bugs.
Added another foot of leaves to the yam plant area .....
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Re: underutilized resources

Post Number:#10  Unread postby akane » Tue Jul 10, 2018 7:09 pm


If they have better hiding places they will use solid objects over leaves and also the amount of sun, temp, and moisture matters. They are evolved from aquatic "pod" species and still have gills so they will not be found when it's hot and dry. Most millipedes and centipedes will also be burrowed or under hard to move objects during the day. I always look after dark and preferably when it's cool and humid during the hot parts of the year. Springtails are generally always active and visible but they are among the smallest leaf eaters you can see. People mistake them for mites without a microscope or observing their jumping behavior. Harmless soil mites will also break down leaves. They multiply or die off so rapidly they are not desirable for any indoor purpose but they are basically the backup if the larger competition for food is missing. My soil has predatory mites that eat other small mites so my yard lacks some of the smaller things. Occasionally useful since a bucket of my yard soil will kill parasitic mites better than chemicals and they also eat fruit fly and fungus gnat larvae.
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