With autumn well underway, the yearly task of raking is likely to become a priority in many gardens. Just one medium-sized deciduous tree can produce a pile of leaves large enough to ‘swim’ in, and the size of that pile only expands with the number of trees in your garden. Once you’ve completed the time-consuming task of raking, don’t let all your effort go to waste – put those leaves to good use. Fallen leaves can be reused throughout your garden in a number of ways, each one improving the health of the living plants in your garden.
Every gardener needs a compost pile. Not only because it’s a great way to manage your garden waste and give back to your garden, but also because it provides an ideal home for your dried leaves.
Good compost requires a mix of green materials (nitrogen-rich) and brown materials (carbon-rich). That’s great news for gardeners with a giant pile of dried leaves in their backyard, as dried leaves of one of the best carbon-rich materials to add to your compost heap.
If you need compost in a hurry, shred the leaves as much as possible before throwing them on the pile. Whole leaves take far longer to break down than shredded ones as you’ve done half the work for them.
Mulching is incredibly important for the growth and health of your plants. It’s also super simple to do and comes with a wide range of benefits – especially if you have a pile of leaves in your garden. Shredded leaves protect the soil as the plants grow and break down over time to improve soil health.
Although shredding leaves is an extra step, it is a necessary one. Rather than retaining moisture and improving soil quality, unshredded leaves prevent water and air from reaching the soil, depriving the roots of their basic needs. If the layer is too thick, it can also trap too much moisture in the soil, causing root rot.
There are leaf shredders designed for this exact task, or you can go wild with your mower and ride over your leaf pile a couple of times to do the job.
Depending on the layout of your garden, you may not have to rake up your leaves at all. If the leaves fall straight onto bare soil, you can simply work them back into the soil to decompose right where they land. This added organic material improves aeration and nutrients as it breaks down over time.
The same practice can be applied to those pesky leaves that land on your lawn. Instead of raking them, leave them where they are and simply mow your lawn. The leaves will break up into fine pieces amongst the grass (as long as there aren’t too many around), covering any gaps and helping retain moisture in the soil. The leaves will also break down into the soil over time, improving the overall quality of your lawn.
The name may not sound particularly appealing, but this organic material can do wonders for your garden. It is a process for patient gardeners, as making leaf mold can take well over a year, but the results are worth the wait.
Leaf mold is a dark substance with a wide range of benefits: improving soil quality by breaking up compacted soils, improving water retention, and aiding microbial activity. It can also be used as a growing medium when sowing seeds.
To make this magical substance, simply drop your leaves in a bag or basket with plenty of holes for aeration or leave them in a separate pile in a secluded corner of your garden. In two years, you will have a dark, rich pile of leaf mold to use in whichever way your garden desires.