Stuff You Missed in Botany: Leaves

Stuff You Missed in Botany: Leaves

Leaves are such fun! We love to see them stretch themselves in our little peat pots in the early spring. We love to see them set themselves ablaze in the dog days of summer and the proclamation of fall. We take treks to behold the wonder that are leaves.

So, what are they? How can we help them be healthy in our gardens?

Leaves are the organs of photosynthesis, typically flattened and thin. Although some leaves have adapted to be quite unrecognizable as a leaf in the way we think of leaves. The leaves of conifers are those needles you pull out of your carpet for six months after Christmas. The leaves of succulents are fat and juicy, sometimes waxy or pokey. (Pokey is a technical term, don’t try this at home)

Leaves come in a gazillion shapes, sizes and colors. Like people. (Gazillion, another technical term) = )

Leaves in my garden are the indicators of health for my plants. If they’re perky, green and abundant, life is good. Proceed with gusto. If they’re droopy, sallow and sketchy, an intervention of some sort is necessary. Proceed with caution. If they are rotted, brown and chewed on, well, it may be time for a new hobby or at least some new plants. Proceed to the seed catalog or knitting store, whichever seems logical at the time.

Leaves perform the duties of changing the energy in sunlight chemically into a form of energy or food for the plant. Think of them as tiny little powerhouses. They arrange themselves in such a way that they get the most amount of sunlight they can without shading their brother and sister leaves. If you’re even half observant in your garden you’ll see leaves turn themselves towards the radiance of the sun. It’s amazing.

Cucumber stretching to the sun!

Cucumbers stretch every which way to get to the sun!

If you carefully study your leaves on each plant, you can easily spot signs of trouble before the trouble is catastrophic. Plus, actually touching your leaves has been found to be helpful to many kinds of plants. I think of it like petting the dog or kitty, they like it and I like it too.

Of course, there are exceptions to this. Please don’t pet your cacti and say I said to. Tomatoes especially benefit from a light brushing of your fingers across the tops of them when they are seedlings. This encourages them to dig deeper and grow stockier stems. Try it.

Other leaf care. If you live in a dusty area or have a particularly dusty day, give your garden a good dusting. At least rinse the leaves off. Your plants will enjoy the extra water and getting the excess dust off of the leaves will help them to do their little power jobs. They will overcome the dust on their own but if you can give them a hand they’ll give you what you want, fruits, veggies and flowers.

I do a once a month leaf feeding of kelp tea or compost tea. This cleans the leaves as well and they absorb the kelp or compost. I have root feeding tubes (pvc with holes drilled in the side planted one foot down) to feed my heavy feeding plants, tomatoes, cukes, squash, eggplant, that I put my regular feedings in as well as generous drinks. Once a month I opt for the hand sprayer bottle feeder for the leaf feeding. Here’s a picture of my tube feeder next to a baby pumpkin last year.

Tube Feeder for Pumpkin 2011

These feeders are cheap, I spent $1.43 per 10′section of Pvc. The Parsnip cut it in to 2′ sections for me and drilled 10 or so holes along the sides. Then at the time of planting, you just hammer them down with a rubber mallet as deep as you can, leaving six or so inches at the top. Voilá, feeding tube for plants. = )

The periodical leaf feedings help to clear the stomata (the pores that absorb rain and food) from the leaves and this helps them absorb rain and other important nutrients.

Knock Knock

Who’s There?


Stomata Who?

Nothing, what’s Stomata with you?

I digress.

Leaves need to be kept clean, checked regularly, and will indicate the overall health of your plant. However, it’s important to note, there is such thing as too much of a good thing. It’s possible to have many, green, healthy leaves and still have a poor yield. This is usually caused by over feeding or feeding the wrong food. It might be necessary to change to a phosphorous or potassium rich food and back off on the nitrogen. Test your soil and see what is going on. It may have nothing to do with your nutrients, it may be a pollination (or lack of pollination) problem instead.

On to the resources…

When my big kids were studying Botany I utilized a company called Enchanted Learning that had excellent resources for home schooling and public school alike. I’m giving a link to their site in case you want to share it with the youngsters in your life. Leaf worksheet and fun from Enchanted Learning here.

I like to know which leaf is what. If you like this also, you may like this link…

Here for leaf tree key. 

Have a leafy paisley day!~KeriAnne


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