Uses For Leaves

By Ken Johnson

Now that the leaves have fallen many of us are faced with a decision of what to do with them. Instead of bagging them up and letting the garbage man take them away, or burning them, consider repurposing them in your yard and garden.

Leaves make excellent mulch that can be used around trees and shrubs. They can also be used in flower and vegetable gardens. Like any mulch they will help retain soil moisture. They will also help protect against temperature fluctuations that we often experience during the winter and can wreak havoc on plants. Eventually these leaves will also break down, releasing nutrients along the way and improving the soil structure.

As gardens are being cleaned up for the fall, leaves can be worked into the soil by digging or tilling them. These leaves will break down and increase your soil’s organic matter and improve the soil’s tilth.

After the ground freezes, leaves can also be used to mulch around perennials and roses to insulate them and help them over winter. If you want to use leaves for this purpose, make sure the leaves are dry before using them.

Leaves are also an excellent addition to compost piles. It is best to shred leaves that will be used for compost because they will decompose quicker.

If you don’t have many leaves in your lawn, they can be left in the yard and cut up with a lawn mower. Leaves can easily smother grass, which can lead to dieback or make them more susceptible to disease. So care must be taken to not leave too heavy of a layer of leaves in the lawn.

If you want to use leaves as mulch, it’s a good idea to shred the leaves first. This will help prevent the leaves from sticking together and forming large unattractive mats of leaves. Leaves can be shredded by using a chipper shredder or by running them over with a lawn mower. Leaf shredding attachments are available for some types of lawnmowers. Regardless of whether you are using a chipper shredder or a lawn mower, it is best to wait until leaves are dry, which will reduce the likelihood of machinery becoming clogged. As always, make sure to us proper safety equipment and practices.

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