Fall leaves are beautiful and awe-inspiring on the branch, but ugly and burdensome on the ground. Raking and disposing of leaves is nobody’s favorite chore, but, year after year, it has to be done. Piles of leaf rot make great hiding places for annoying pests and can choke out your grass if left unattended to. This year, instead of throwing away trash bag after trash bag of dead leaves, why not use the debris to make something useful? Dead leaves may not look like much, but they have numerous garden applications. Here are a few ideas:
Shred Leaves and Make “Leaf Mold”
Instead of raking your leaves, consider shredding them! Simply pile up leaves, shred them with a lawnmower or leaf shredder, and then store them in plastic bags until the following spring. Over time, the leaves will turn into a substance called “leaf mold” that can be used as a fertilizer. Plants love it, and you’ll love saving yourself a trip to the dump!
Use Dead Leaves in Compost
Dry, dead leaves are a great addition to any compost pile! Compost does wonderful things in the garden, and it’s easy to make. We detailed how to create a compost pile in this blog: http://www.roanokelandscapes.com/2016/07/14/green-gardening-secrets-compost/ When adding leaves to your compost, you’ll want to balance the leaves out with a nitrogen-rich organic, ie. grass clipping, hay, manure. Blend thoroughly and then let the compost sit!
Use Dead Leaves as Mulch
For an extra simple fix, simply spread dead leaves over plantings like you would with mulch. The leaves will provide protection and eventually rot, adding nutrients to the soil. If you have too many leaves for your garden, you can always give some away to friends (although there is usually never any shortage of leaves around in the fall!)
Press Leaves into Art
This one isn’t strictly garden related, but it’s a great family project! Once you’re done making leaf mold, compost, or mulch, you can save the prettiest leaves you find for pressing. Pressing leaves is fairly simple and versatile. You can used press leaves for scrapbooking, coaster-making, picture framing, and a variety of other projects! For a detailed how-to, check out this guide: http://www.hometrainingtools.com/a/preserving-autumn-leaves
Happy fall and happy gardening!