Toss leaves in the air, or pile them up and jump in; leaves are the definition of fall fun. But did you know leaves are great for your yard and garden, too? Don’t just rake them to the curb. Rake them up to use as free and sustainable garden treats.
6 Things to Do with Fall Leaves
1. Shred and spread. Chop leaves using a mower with a bagging attachment. This is the easiest way to chop and reuse leaves. The smaller the cut, the faster they’ll decompose. Spread over anywhere you need nutrients added to the soil.
2. Compost. Leaves are the perfect brown, or carbon, for your compost. Layer with green, or nitrogen, such as plant and grass clippings. They decompose faster if you shred them, but it’s not necessary.
3. Mulch garden beds. Shredded leaves make attractive mulch that suppresses weeds and eventually feeds the soil. When the ground hardens, spread them around the roots of plants, being careful to keep away from trunks or stems.
4. Make leaf mold. Leaf mold improves soil structure, holds water and attracts beneficial organisms. Put collected leaves into a black garbage bag, then sprinkle water inside the bag a few times during winter. After about six months you’ll have leaf-mold to add to your garden beds.
5. Insulate Tender Plants. A blanket of leaves protects tender plants from wind and cold temperatures. Circle plants with wire fencing and pack in leaves at least six inches deep. In the spring, rake them up and compost. Cover cold-hardy vegetables, such as carrots, kale, leeks and beets, and you’ll be able to harvest them all winter.
6. Community recyling. If you don’t have a need for leaves in your garden, most communities take yard waste and turn it into compost and mulch. Collect them in biodegradable paper leaf bags and help reduce landfill waste.