Every weekend, our neighbourhood is filled with the sounds of people raking and the whine of leaf vacuums sucking up the autumn leaves that are falling in bagloads from the trees. It happens every year, and it doesn’t stop until the last leaf has been safely gathered and bagged.

[custom_frame_center shadow=”on”]autumn leaves[/custom_frame_center] Is it really necessary to make so much work for ourselves? Bagging all those autumn leaves is backbreaking work, especially when they can be put to work in our favour. We’ve tracked down five easy ways to use leaves in your garden.

  1. Compost – autumn leaves, especially those that have been chopped or shredded with a shredder, leaf vacuum or lawnmower, are excellent to add to the compost heap, says organic gardener Colleen Vanderlinden on About.com.
    Leaves are a good source of high-carbon material for compost. Simply alternate layers of shredded leaves with the regular green materials you’d add to your heap, such as kitchen scraps, weeds, grass clippings and discarded plants, and let it rest during the winter. Aerate or turn the pile every now and again, and by planting time you’ll have wonderful compost.
  2. Turn leaves into leaf mould – Leaf mould is a clean, odourless alternative to compost and it can be used to feed the entire garden. Mix fallen leaves in a pile with garden soil or compost. Leave the pile to rest for about a year, after which you’ll have a great soil improver for vegetable and flower gardens and potted plants. To keep the pile neat, build a temporary enclosure by hammering four wooden poles to define a 1×1-metre square (sharpen the ends of the poles to make hammering them into the ground easier). Make the sides by joining the poles with chicken mesh, using cable ties to secure it. The sides should be about 1.5 metres high. Build the enclosure in a shady area of the garden to prevent the leaves from drying out.
  3. Mulch – Shredded leaves can be used as an organic mulch in flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, under trees and shrubs or in containers. Apply a 5–6-centimetre layer of shredded autumn leaves to your beds, keeping the mulch from direct contact with the stems and trunks of your plants. The mulch will help the soil retain moisture, stay cool and limit weed germination. The leaves will also add nutrients to the soil as they break down, and earthworms and soil microorganisms will start their work, resulting in lighter, fluffier soil.
  4. Store them – Yes, really! You may never want to see another leaf again, but a bag or two of autumn leaves stored in a sheltered space will be perfect to add to the compost heap in spring to offset all the green matter that’s being trimmed and pruned. It’s especially good when your compost heap is wet – just turn the dry leaves into the pile.
  5. Mow the leaves – Mowing is one of the simplest solutions to the annual gathering of fallen autumn leaves. There’s no scientific reason for raking all the leaves off your lawn (of course, there’s every reason to clear gutters and drains). Instead, simply run over them with a mower with the wheels set at their highest setting. Leave them; they’ll break down during the winter, feeding your soil with nutrients and shading it, protecting it against weeds. Do this once a week until the leaves have all fallen – your lawn will look better for it next spring and summer.

So stop eyeing the deciduous trees in your neighbourhood with trepidation as their leaves start to fall. Instead, view them as a food supply for your garden.


Acknowledgements & Photo credits

1. Autumn leaves photo courtesy of Porbital / FreeDigitalPhotos.net