How to Repurpose Autumn Leaves

October 6, 2010


Autumn leaves will continue to litter our yards and beds through November or December. You can rake and bag them for the landfill, use as mulch, or toss them in the compost pile. If you have an overwhelming amount of leaves, most (if not all) of them will go to the landfill especially if you live in town. However, you can repurpose the last of the leaves as mulch and for composting. Here are a few tips.

Leaf Mulch:

  • Shred leaves first through a chipper-shredder or run over them a couple of times with the lawnmower to prevent matting which prevents air circulation and water seepage.
  • Leaf mulch isn’t as appealing as other mulches but it’s one of nature’s freebees.
  • Leaves decompose slowly and provide good moisture retention.
  • Leaf mulch adds nitrogen and nutrients to the soil.
  • Leaf mulch does a fair job of weed control.
  • Eucalyptus leaves are slow to breakdown.
  • Use oak leaf mulch for acid-soil plants.

Mulch:  1) covers the soil; 2) retains moisture; 3) cools the soil in the summer and keeps it warm in the winter; 3) keeps topsoil from being washed away; 4) reduces weeds; 5) provides nutrients as it decomposes; 6) should be at least three inches from the base of plants and trees; 7) fine mulch should be one-three inches deep and coarse or shredded matter three-six inches. 

Composting Leaves:

  • Leaves are a good source of carbon.
  • Leaves will decompose faster if shredded.
  • Add leaves to compost pile in layers. If your leaves are green use for green layer. Dry, brown leaves for the brown layer. Turn pile 2 to 3 times per week. Keep moist like a sponge not soggy.

Compost:  1) is decomposed matter worked into the top soil; 2) amends the soil; 3) helps with erosion; 4) helps stimulate healthy root systems; 5) improves soil structure; 6) improves water retention; 7) provides good air circulation.

Note:  1) Oleander leaves should NOT be used as mulch or compost because of the high toxin. 2) Leaves left on lawns can smother the grass. 3) Remove diseased and chemically treated leaves from beds and lawns. Avoid mulching and composting these.   

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


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