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Past Articles Library | Trees | 6 Uses for Fall Leaves

Looking for a couple of ideas for those fallen leaves.  Well, the suggestions below utilize fall leaves in and around the garden space.  Keep in mind though, never keep diseased or pest ridden leaves around.  They will continue to harbor problems through the winter into next year and beyond until they are destroyed. 

Create leaf mulch

Most plants can benefit from a layer of leaf mulch, which decomposes slowly and in doing so can create a Mother Nature’s version of slow-release fertilizer.  To create your own, take a black plastic bag and poke 12 holes around the bag.  Once that is done, rake up some leaves and place them inside the bag.  After the bag is full, tie off and shake periodically.  In about one year, the leaves will have turned into mulch.

Throughout the season, this “mulch” can be added a handful at a time every time you add kitchen scrapes.  This will add the needed carbon that many composting bins are lacking. 

Raked leaves can be used as a top-dressing for tender perennials that may have broken ground early.  This simple step will protect the plants from that final blast of cold air before spring.  In the fall, create a leaf blanket for your perennials.  Again, this step will create an insulating layer that will protect your plant material. 

Another option is to add the raked leaves to containers and as filling for holes dug for future plant material.  Since the leaves decompose slowly, you do not have to worry about the soil level getting too low due to decomposition.  This technique is great for bulbs and evergreens.  When using this approach, make sure to pack the leaves tight.  If using this method for bulbs, make sure to plant them an inch or two deeper than you would if they were just being planted in the ground.  

If you have a troubled area and want to plant bulbs, leaves can help you achieve this task.  To do this, lay down a very thick layer of leaves.  To hold down the leaves, top with a layer of potting soil.  Once that is done, lay out your bulbs and then top with another thick layer of leaves and then soil.  Firm the layers down and water in. 

Create leaf compost

Some individuals may confuse leaf mulch with leaf compost and vice versa.  These two terms are not the same.  The easiest way to remember the difference is the fact that mulch is not mixed with other plant and/or kitchen scraps.  Leaf compost, on the other hand, is mixed with other materials, such as plants, kitchen scraps and newspaper. 

To make your own leaf compost, starts off by grinding up the leaves with a mulching lawn mower.  If you do not have this type of mower, do not worry.  Leaf compost can still be made with raked leaves; it will just take longer to decompose.

Once you have your leaves, place them in your compost bin, water in, and mix up.  Continue to stir up at least once a week along with watering.  Both of these steps will keep your compost cooking and in doing so speeding up the decomposition process.

Create a scarecrow

A scarecrow is a beautiful and time-tested addition to any garden space.  In the past, scarecrows were set up in the fields and gardens to keep birds and other pests away from the fruits of the gardener’s labor.  Today, scarecrows are still used in the garden space but more often than not are only put up for the fall season.

To create your own scarecrow, you will need old clothes and accessories along with a metal or wooden frame.  Once you have your frame, place it in the location where you want it and dress your scarecrow.  While you are doing this process, you may notice that your garden person is a little flat.  This is where your leaves come into play.  To add depth to your garden friend, stuff the clothes with leaves until they are as full as you would like. 

Looking for some additional ideas, consider placing your scarecrow looking over your garden fence.  Have a family of gardening friends setting on your porch or place in a tree as if your friend has climbed up to have a clearer view of your garden space. 

Create a leaf wreath and/or swag

Fall leaves can make a beautiful wreath or swag that be displayed hanging off your front door or placed on gate.  The process is simple, creates a one-of-a kind wreath each time, and the leaves are free.

This project starts off with the purchase of a straw wreath and floral pins.   Both of these supplies can be found in hobby supply stores.  If you cannot find the floral pins, consider using bobby pins.  Once you have your supplies, the next step is to harvest your leaves.  When picking out your leaves, make sure to leave the stem attached to the leaf.  This stem is what is going to be used to hold the leaf onto the wreath form.  Once you have an assortment of leaves, gather them into bundles of 4 to 5 leaves.  Place the bundle on the straw wreath and secure with the floral pins. 

A swag can be made just as easy by purchasing twig swag and adding leaves to the swag by pushing the stems in between the twigs of the swag.  If you have a tree that has naturally curving branches, create your own swag by clipping some branches, wiring them together with floral wire and then displaying. 

Create a fall window box

Looking to create a unique window box for fall?  If so, consider using those colorful leaves as filler for your window boxes.  To create this look, remove any remaining plant material and soil.  Once that is done, gather three blocks of floral foam and trays together.  Soak each block of floral foam in a bucket of water until air bubbles stop coming to the surface.  Once that has happened, remove from the bucket and place inside a tray, which is then placed inside the window box.  Repeat the process with the remaining blocks of floral foam. 

Once this is done, the next step is to harvest your leaves.  Place 8- to 12-inch pieces of tree stems into the foam but do not limit yourself to just leaves.  Consider adding berries, such as those from the dogwood.  Also, look into cut flowers that can be found around the garden space.  This includes mums and golden rod. 

When using this approach, keep in mind that this is not a long term display but one that can be easily changed as the plant material dies.  

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Check Light Availability

Most shrubs can grow in both sun and shade to varying degrees.

Many flowering shrubs, however, tend to need some sun to flower.

Be sure to double check the amount of light you have available to the shrubs you are planning to plant so you are happy with the outcome.

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