Leaves are a major problem for any yard, but through proper management, can be turned into a valuable organic resource that can be used to sustain the landscape. This article will look at some of the best ways to deal with leaves.
Compost them: Leaves can be mixed with green matter or matter high in nitrogen and put into the compositor. If composting is not your thing, or if you don’t have enough room for all the leaves, pile them in an out of the way location and allow them to decompose naturally. Within a few years, they will have become organic matter that can be incorporated into the yard. If there are earthworms active, the leaf pile often decomposes faster, due to the action of the earthworms.
Shred them into the lawn: Leaves can be shredded with the lawn mower, provided that they are not too thick. Up to a half inch of shredded leaves can be allowed to sit in the lawn without harming it. Additional shredded leaves can be bagged with the lawnmower and then used elsewhere, in the compost pile or the garden. Shredded leaves will decompose faster than leaves that have not been shredded.
Use in vegetable garden; protect in winter, enrich in spring: Leaves or shredded leaves can be spread on top of the garden as winter mulch. The leaves will protect the garden from erosion and excessive leaching of nutrients during the winter. In the spring, the leaves can be tilled into the soil, but it is advised to add a nitrogen supplement as the decaying leaves will be tying up nitrogen that will be used in their decaying process. Shredded leaves will mix in and decay better than whole leaves; they are also less likely to blow around in winter.
Use as winter mulch for perennials: Leaves can be used to protect tender perennials and plants that have recently been transplanted. When soil thaws and freezes repeatedly, the plants can frost-heave and become exposed to the elements if they weren’t established the previous autumn. A mulch of leaves will stabilize the temperatures, and reduce the repeated freezing and thawing of the soil. Tender perennials, although rooted, will be more likely to overwinter with the added protection. Shredded leaves are less likely to blow around in the wind. When spring comes, the leaf mulch will need to be removed and added to the compost pile or the leaf pile. The compost pile may have more room now, while the leaf pile will have packed during the winter and will be ready to hold the leaves. Alternatively, they can be used as mulch in the vegetable garden to keep weeds down.
In all three methods, you can turn unwanted leaves into a valuable resource. By returning them to the environment through allowing them to decompose, they will enhance the yard and garden, and reduce your impact on the environment.