CO-Horts Blog

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Uses for Fall Leaves

By: Sherie Caffey, CSU Extension-Pueblo County Horticulture Agent

I don’t know about your neighborhood, but where I live we have fall leaves covering just about every yard right now! What to do with all of them?! Raking them into a pile to jump in sounds fun, or how about filling up a festive yard bag with a Jack O’ Lantern face on it? Or you could do something more useful with them. Believe it or not fall leaves have many beneficial uses in our landscapes.

My neighbor's Sycamores give me lots of fall leaves to use
You can use fall leaves to add organic matter to your garden beds. Adding organic matter will help your soil hold more water and nutrients, and improve the texture. The ideal soil has about 5% organic matter, which is a lot more than most of natural soils contain. Work leaves into the soil in the beds, and moisten it every so often this fall and winter. The microbes in your soil will break those leaves down into organic matter, which will improve your soil’s quality come next spring.

Do you have fall planted bulbs or garlic? Or maybe some perennials you are hoping to over winter? Mulching plants over the winter helps them to survive until next spring. It stabilizes soil moisture and temperature, giving your plants a more stable environment, and protects them from the elements. It will also prevent newly planted bulbs from frost heaving. Fall leaves are a great source of free mulch. Spread a layer roughly 6 inches deep over your bulbs, perennials, trees, and shrubs this fall to protect them.
Free mulch!

My biggest leaf accumulation is in my lawn. The best thing to do with the leaves on your lawn is to mow right over them and leave them on the surface. It’s much easier than raking them plus it’s good for your lawn! They will break down and add organic matter to your turf. They will also prevent weeds and lower the need to fertilize. If you have so many that you can’t see the grass blades, use your mower bag to collect them and store them for future use.
Leaves waiting to be mulched onto my lawn

Finally, fall leaves can be very useful if you have a compost bin at home. They are a great carbon or “brown” material for your compost. Each time you throw in kitchen scraps, throw in a handful of dried leaves as well to keep a good carbon: nitrogen ratio going. Be aware that leaves that were showing any signs of disease should probably not be used around the landscape.

So don't throw those leaves out in the garbage! Find a use for them around your landscape.

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