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4 Best Ways To Use Fall Leaves In Your Garden

Written by Hilary on November 18th, 2009

The tree leaves that accumulate around your yard or garden can be a valuable natural resource for you to use because they provide a good source of organic matter and nutrients.

Leaves don’t always seem like a good thing however, especially when you have a lot of raking to do, but if you can, be thankful and hang on to your leaves.

Leaves contain 50 to 80 percent of the nutrients a plant extracts from the soil and air during the season, so if you can, use and recycle your leaves around your property rather than raking them up and throwing them away.

Here are 4 of the best ways to use leaves in your yard, garden, or landscape:

1. Leaf Uses – Mowing
Mowing leaves that have fallen on your lawn area is most effective when a mulching mower is used, but if the leaf drop is light, a regular mower will work just fine. In fact, during times of light leaf drop, or if there are only a few small trees in your yard, simply leave the shredded leaves in place on the lawn. They will act as a beneficial mulch and compost and will help your lawn.

2. Leaf Uses – Mulching
Leaves can be used as mulch in vegetable gardens, flower beds and around shrubs and trees. The best way is to rake the leaves into a pile and then shred them with your lawn mower or a shredder if you have one.

It you have the option, use a lawn mower with a bagging attachment because it is a fast and easy way to shred and collect the leaves. Leaves that have been mowed or run through some other type of shredder will decompose faster

Leaves that are not shredded won’t decompose as well and will only smother what they are put on. Try and never let leaves remain on a lawn without raking them up or they can smother the grass underneath.

  • Apply a 3 to 6 inch (7.5 to 15 cm) layer of shredded leaves around the base of trees and shrubs making sure not to put any right up against the trunk or main stem of trees or shrubs.
  • In annual and perennial flower beds, a 2 to 3 inch (5 to 7.5 cm) mulch of shredded leaves is good.
  • For vegetable gardens, a thick layer of leaves placed in between the rows work both as a mulch and as an all-weather walkway that will allow you to work in your garden during wet periods.

3. Leaf Uses – Soil Improvement
Leaves that have been raked and shredded can be worked directly into your garden and flower beds. A 6 to 8 inch (15 to 20 cm) layer of leaves tilled into a heavy, clay soil will improve aeration and drainage. The same amount worked into a light, sandy soil, will improve water and nutrient holding capacity.

Note: A basic strategy for using leaves to improve soil in vegetable gardens and annual planting beds is to collect and work them into the soil during the fall. This allows sufficient time for the leaves to decompose prior to spring planting. Adding a little fertilizer to the soil after working in the leaves will hasten their decomposition.

4. Leaf Uses – Composting
Leaves are great to add to your compost pile or bin. Once again, shredding them first will help them decompose faster, but whole leaves can be added in as well.

Other Helpful Articles:

The Complete Guide To Mulch

Mulching – How Much and How Deep?

For more Gardening Tips and Gardening Advice visit our main gardening website at Weekend Gardener Monthly Web Magazine

Have great week!


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2 Comments so far ↓

  1. Anonymous says:

    great advice, even for the seasoned gardener, I have plenty of leaves, unfortunately here in Florida they are falling off at the beginning of the year and they are mostly oak leaves. I have used them as mulch, yet noticed that they are getting really clumpy wet and don’t really decompost. Any idea what to do?

  2. Hilary says:


    The best thing to do in a situation like this is to shred your leaves with a lawn mower first, then spread them out.

    By creating a smaller leaf size, they can then decompost much faster and easier.

    If you don’t have access to a mower, then at least try breaking them up with a firm rake.

    Hope this helps!


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