How to mulch with fallen leaves
Many people see the piles of dropped autumn leaves as a hindrance. This could be due to the work involved raking them up, bagging them and sitting them by the curb for the city to pick up. So, why do it? Why not use the fallen leaves in a positive way that not only feeds the soil in your garden but also feeds you in the long run? Read on to learn how to mulch with fallen leaves!
How to mulch with fallen leaves: Why?
The first question you may be asking is – why should I use leaves in my garden? It is really simple! Using leaf mulch in garden has numerous benefits and it is an inexpensive and renewable way to achieve healthy soil.
How to mulch with fallen leaves: Where to get leaves
You may be asking yourself – where am I supposed to find the leaves to mulch my garden. You can literally find them anywhere! Here on our urban homestead, we do not have any of our own trees so I have to source them elsewhere. I usually drive around the neighborhoods during the fall and winter to check for leaves being put out to the trash.
If I find some – I am excited because I know what it means for the garden. I will go up to the door and ask them if they mind me taking them. I also ask them if they use any chemicals in their yard and if there is anything else in the bags. Is this necessary? Not really. I ask them if they mind because it is just respectful and it also lets them know why I’m there snooping in their “trash”. I ask the other questions as I do not spray or use chemicals in my garden nor do I want to bring them in. I also do not want to pick stuff out of the bags if I don’t have to.
How to mulch with fallen leaves: What is Leaf Mulch?
Mulch is any material that is placed on top of the soil to help to maintain moisture and keep down weeds. There are many types of mulch, and leaf mulch is comprised of exactly what it sounds like, leaves. This mulch will decompose and needs to be replaced eventually but, in the meantime, it adds to the overall health of the soil. Mulching with leaves is a great way to add in more organic matter that will feed the earthworms. It is also a great way to use a free resource to anyone that has deciduous trees.
Here are some benefits of using leaf mulch:
- Applying leaf mulch helps to keep soil temperatures warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, thereby protecting plants.
- It improves soil fertility as it decomposes, which reduces the need for fertilizing.
- Leaf mulch can aid in retaining soil moisture too, lessening irrigation needs.
- Leaf mulches also suppress weeds, reducing the amount of weeding for the gardener.
- They also can help reduce soil erosion in certain instances.
How to mulch with fallen leaves: Tips on Mulching with Leaves
The best way to use leaves is to shred them. You can do this in different ways but it is best to let them dry first. I use my lawn mower with the bag attachment to mulch them up. Dried leaves used as mulch break down quickly and shred easily. You can also use leaves after the season that have been moist and developed into leaf mold.
Using leaves as mulch is an easy way to recycle the debris in your yard. To use the dried leaves as mulch, spread them at 3 to 4 inches deep around trees and shrubs and 2 to 3 inches over perennial beds. You can use them to insulate rose bushes in November; just pull them away before the bushes start spring growth.
Related: How to mulch around Fruit Trees
How to mulch with fallen leaves: Composting with Leaves
Using leaves as mulch has many benefits, but you can also simply compost the dead foliage. You can use the three-bin system, a composter or simply a pile of leaves. Rake the leaves into a pile in an area that will get wet on occasion. Leave the pile alone for about 2 years and it will become rich, crumbly compost ready to amend your flower beds. As in mulching, it’s best to cut them up to fine pieces for quicker composting.
Keep the leaves moderately moist and turn the pile at least weekly. For a balanced compost, mix in some grass clippings to add nitrogen. You want to keep equal parts brown to equal parts green. If it begins to smell – you may need to add some more brown material.
Keeping the pile warm, moist and aerated will guarantee juicy soil in the future and the fine shreds break down quickly for fast compost that will benefit the whole garden.
It is hard to think of anything better than leaf mulch if you have trees on your property. Free exercise and free organic mulch to replenish your garden year round! So don’t rake and bag those fall leaves, turn them into mulch for your garden instead. Get out there and start mulching your garden – you will not be disappointed!
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