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5 Great Ways To Use Fall Leaves In Your Garden And Landscape

Although to some, autumn’s bounty of falling leaves can be quite a nuisance, they can be an incredible resource in gardens, flowerbeds, and all throughout the landscape.

And the best part of all, all for free!

Leaves In The Garden
Leaves can be a huge asset in the garden and landscape.

So instead of dreading that falling foliage, check out these 5 great ways to put them to work for you this fall!

5 Great Ways To Use Leaves In The Garden & Landscape

#1 Mulching Perennials, Roses & Shrubs

Leaves are one of the best mulches around for protecting perennials from the fury of winter.

A two to three inch blanket of leaves placed around the base of shrubs and roses protects tender roots. It also helps to regulate soil temperatures from the wild swings of freezing and thawing.

leaves in the garden
Shredded or whole leaves are perfect for protecting perennials, shrubs, bushes – and even overwintering crops like garlic and onions.

The same goes for perennial plants. As plants die back in late autumn, a few inches of leaves helps protect plant’s roots from freezing out during extremely cold or brutal winters.

As an added benefit, that same lead mulch keeps competing weeds from taking hold as well.

Leaves are also a great choice to protect over-wintering vegetable crops. Garlic, onions and perennial food crops such as blueberries, strawberries and asparagus all benefit from a protective layering of leaves.

#2 Creating A Great Compost Pile With Leaves

Autumn’s falling leaves provide the perfect material for starting a compost pile. Compost that will be ready to help next year’s plants grow healthier and stronger.

What better way to use leaves in the garden than with great compost!

To speed up decomposition, always shred leaves before composting. The finer the shred, the faster they will compost. See: How To Make The Perfect Compost Pile From Leaves

Leaves in the garden
Shredded leaves are perfect for using to create a fall compost pile.

A push or riding mower is a great tool for shredding mass amounts of leaves quickly. And remember, some leaves are better for a compost pile than others.

Maple, ash, birch and ornamental and fruit tree leaves are all great choices for composting. Although oak leaves can be composted as well, do so in moderation to keep from creating compost that is too acidic.

Compost piles should contain no more than 20% oak leaves to keep a safe PH balance.

#3 A Cover Crop For The Garden

If you are unable to plant a true cover crop, then “plant” one with a thick coating of leaves in the garden.

A thick coating of leaves over a garden, much like a cover crop, protect soil from both erosion and weeds.

Leaving garden soil bare through the off-season can deplete the soil of valuable resources via erosion and run-off. Likewise, open soil is an open invitation for blowing weed seeds to find a home.

Because of their acidity, oak leaves should always be used in moderation, whether in the garden or in the compost pile.

But covering the garden with a 4 to 6″ thick coating of leaves puts a stop to both issues.

When using as a covering for the garden, keep the leaves whole, Whole leaves are much better at forming a protective barrier to the soil below. They also won’t blow away as easily.

Next spring, simply mow and mulch, or dig or till them in place to help enrich the soil.

#4 Store Shredded Leaves For Spring Planting Season In The Garden

Shredded leaves are the perfect addition to spring planting hole. They are also great for adding to soil used in raised beds, containers, planters & hanging baskets.

This fall, shred up large amounts and store in a pile in the garden. Next spring, you will have a ready-made soil-additive that can help power your plants!

electric shredder

If you don’t own a push or lawn mower, there are many electric shredders on the market that work well to shred leaves! Product link : Worx Electric Leaf Shredder

#5 Create Leaf Mold

If you don’t have a compost pile, you can create leaf mold instead.

Although the name may sound a bit scary, leaf mold is an incredible organic humus-like material that can be used in gardens and flowerbeds. And it is made entirely from leaves.

Unlike a compost pile, leaf mold is created as leaves mold and decompose. A leaf mold pile doesn’t heat up like compost. Instead, it breaks down slowly into rich black humus, which is perfect for using around plants, or to enrich the soil when planting.

Wet leaves placed in a large pile will slowly break down to create leaf mold.

To make, simply use fresh leaves to create a thick pile of wet leaves at least 3 feet high x 3 feet wide. Like composting, shredding the leaves first will speed up the process greatly.

Keep the pile moist by watering, turning it ever few weeks or so. To help hold together, fence in the pile so it can be contained and managed easily.

The key to making the best and richest leaf mold is to use fresh fallen leaves. A shredded wet pile can be ready in as little as 6 months to a year. Whole leaves can take a few years to decompose if left on their own.

Here is to using fall’s bounty of leaves in the garden and landscape!

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