We love autumn for its cool breezes, red and golden hues and all things pumpkin spice. But eventually the bright fall foliage drops from the tree branches and scatters into dull clumps of brown strewn across the grass. The question then becomes: What do you do with the leaves in your yard?
You might be tempted to rid yourself of the mess, but those leaves can be quite useful to flower beds, lawns, gardens and other landscaping efforts — plus, they can make springtime yard work less daunting. In a feel-good bonus, repurposing leaves involves greenscaping methods recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), so you can rest assured that you’re doing something beneficial for the environment. Add these tips to your fall lawn care to-do list.
If you have a treed lot, you don’t need to spend cash on mulch bags at your local garden center. Leaf mulch does double duty to protect and nourish your perennial beds or winter veggie plantings. Use your leaf blower or mower’s mulching function and bag attachment to collect the debris, then spread it around flower beds, over areas where you’ve planted spring bulbs or in the garden around root vegetables and other cool-weather crops. If you don’t have a leaf blower or a mulching mower, you can still get to work with a rake and add a light layer as insulation to your decorative beds.
Feed Your Lawn
If you’re short on time for fall chores, just run the lawnmower over the leaves once or twice. Let the resulting leaf shreds and lawn clippings serve as a natural rich fertilizer and weed control for your yard, say turfgrass professionals from Michigan State University. You’ll enjoy a lush, green expanse next year.
Are you growing cold-weather veggies such as carrots, leeks and beets? Leaves are perfect for insulating these root crops. Not only do the leaves help keep the crops warm when temperatures drop, but they also add a layer of protection against snow. Gather a bundle of leaves — whole, not shredded — and spread them across the top of your crops; if the leaf layer isn’t too thick, you can keep them here to decompose until spring.
Dropped leaves make great brown matter for your compost bin. Shredded leaves work best. You’ll need nitrogen-rich green matter to help break down the pile. Try fruit and veggie waste, coffee grounds, crushed eggshells and other kitchen refuse. For an even speedier process, add manure. Layer materials together and turn your compost mixture often.
Amend the Soil
Trees pull valuable minerals from the ground and deposit a portion of those nutrients in their leaves. That’s why newly fallen leaves make such a great soil amendment. Fall is a great time to plan out new flower bed projects or replenish vegetable gardens for spring planting. So get out that tiller, recommends The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Add a layer of leaves and any other soil amendments to your beds and till right in.
Create Leaf Mold
Leaf mold is simply decomposed leaves that benefit yard maintenance. The matter can be added to your planting beds, garden or decorative pots to help retain moisture and reduce watering. Making leaf mold can take some time, but it’s pretty easy. Rake leaves into a contained heap in your yard and then let nature do the work over the course of a year or more. Just keep it moist. Enclose the pile with staked-up chicken wire or landscape fabric if you’re worried about wind scattering your stash.
Did you know: One of the uses for fallen leaves is protection from predators and inclement weather for critters like bees, butterflies and moths? For example, butterflies and moths lay their eggs on the underside of fallen leaves and find shelter under leaf cover when the season gets colder; mated queen bumble bees burrow in the ground to hibernate, relying on leaves and twigs to keep their nesting sites warm. For you, minimal lawn care in the fall — for pollinators, maintaining a crucial ecosystem. Win-win!
Protect Your Home
You take pride in your home and yard. Contact a Farm Bureau agent to make sure you have the proper homeowners coverage.