gardening with fall leaves

What Can You Do with Fall Leaves in Your Garden?

The leaves in your garden are valuable resources. Many people stuff their fall foliage into bags ready for the rubbish tip. Keep yours, though, and you can use them to improve your garden. Autumn leaves do many jobs like feeding earthworms and balancing compost nitrogen. Here’s how to make the most of them by recycling them.

Shred fall leaves 

You don’t need special equipment to shred fall leaves, just a lawnmower to run over them. Go back and forth a few times to break them down into slices. Then make a secure leaf pile, so they can’t blow away in the wind, and you can use them for a variety of garden improvement tasks.

Mow fall leaves into your lawn

Save most leaves after you mow them, but leave some on the lawn, too. A Michigan State University study shows garden lawns benefit from thin leaf layers. Leaf litter reduces the need for spring fertilizer and ramps up soil richness. Aim to mow every week during Autumn and make sure the leaves resemble ribbons. You need the room to make sure the leaves decompose well. Unless they break down well, they will stop oxygen from reaching the soil and attract disease.

Build a compost pile 

Fall leaves are carbon and nitrogen-rich. Mix them with other dead plant matter, kitchen scraps, and lawn clippings, and nature will help you create garden compost. Layer three inches of leaves with other garden waste and let it sit. During the winter months, aerate the pile by turning it now and then. Spray it with water if it looks dry, and it will be ready to use come spring.

Create leaf mold 

Mineral-rich shredded leaves support beneficial organisms and plants. Store them, or create a garden bin for them. Then, leave them for up to three years until they are leaf mold. Use it in flower gardens and vegetable plots.

Improve flowerbed soil 

After you shred fall leaves, mix them straight into your garden to encourage beneficial organisms to thrive. Be sure to add slow-release fertilizers to assist leaf decomposition, and soil microbes won’t steal the nitrogen.

Make mulch 

Use the shredded leaves as mulch for your garden. Leaf mulch holds moisture, reduces weeds, and looks more attractive than popular bark mulch. Perennials love it because it helps them stay warm, and it will improve your garden soil. The leaf mulch will also stop the bedding soil from washing away in severe winter weather.

Added to beds, it will maintain soil moisture and reduce weed germination. Put mulch around your perennials after the soil freezes and save some shredded leaves as replacements for later in the Autumn when the old foliage has decomposed.

Protect root vegetables 

You can harvest root vegetables such as carrots, beets, and leeks throughout the winter if you protect them with insulating leaves. You could also store root vegetables in layers of fall leaves. Sprinkle the foliage with water, but don’t make it too wet, or it will decompose.

Let wildlife have your garden leaves 

Fall leaves can provide havens for garden wildlife like butterflies, spiders, moths, snails, and bees during winter. They protect them from harsh weather and predators. Some insects rely on leaf cover when it’s cold, as they only burrow a few inches below ground. Adding a layer of freshly fallen leaves will help them survive.


Why rake and discard fall leaves when you can use them to help your garden grow? Collect them throughout Autumn and put them to good use rather than waste them. Doing so will save you from spending money on shop-bought compost and soil improvers and assist wildlife too.


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