Although Autumn brings gorgeous colors to our landscapes, it also brings a big chore to our yards: leaf raking. Before you purchase garbage or paper leaf bags that are ultimately dumped in a landfill, we’re bringing you five sustainable ways you can reuse your fallen leaves in your garden.
The leaves you use should be shredded first, which can be done with a mulching lawnmower or a leaf mulcher. If they aren’t shredded correctly, they won’t fully break down during the winter months and will need to be raked up again in the spring. Lawns and gardens that are covered in leaves can become increasingly unhealthy as the leaves trap moisture and nutrients from reaching soil and roots.
Delicate perennials and root vegetables need to be protected from cold temperatures, so as not to start over again. Garden experts recommend using a thick six-inch layer of shredded leaves to keep these plants isolated until the last frost has passed.
Composting benefits both your garden and the ecology in your community! Not only does compost naturally enrich soil but using it as an alternative to fertilizers and pesticides reduces fossil fuels and waste materials that are sent to landfills. Fallen and shredded leaves are a great source of brown, high-carbon material for your compost. Alternate these brown layers of shredded leaves with green materials such as veggie and fruit scraps, weeds, grass clippings, and other plants you pull out in your Autumn garden cleanup.
Mulch helps to retain moisture in soil, maintain consistent soil temperature, and limits weed seed germination. It can be used in flower beds, veggie gardens, around trees or shrubs, and even in containers. Simply apply a 2-to-3 inch layer of shredded leaves, but keep it from directly touching the stems and trunks of plants so they have enough air flow.
Despite the name, leaf mold is great for gardens. It can be used as a soil improver to break up hard clods, allowing plant roots to penetrate more easily. Simultaneously, leaf mold stimulates microbial activity in the soil, which then releases nutrients to feed roots.
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