It’s time to reap this season’s most abundant crop: leaves. Believe it or not, one of the best sources of organic matter for your garden is autumn leaves. Packed with plenty of trace minerals, drawn up by trees from deep within the soil, they can do wonders for your little green oasis.
Compost: Autumn leaves are a great source of “high-carbon” material and a fantastic addition to the compost pile. Alternate layers of shredded leaves with green material – like grass clippings, food scraps or weeds – and let it sit through the winter months, aerating by turning occasionally. Come planting time you will have fabulous finished compost.
Mow them: Raking up leaves is a weekend ritual most of us don’t relish. But there is a quick and easy way to make light work of the cold-weather season task – mow them. Simply run over the leaves with a lawn mower – wheels set at the highest setting – and leave the crumbs where they are. They will break down and provide your soil with some much-needed nutrients and even help combat weeds from sprouting, which will ensure you have a great looking lawn come spring and summer.
Leaf mould: A wonderful addition to potting soils, leaf mould is made from nothing more than autumn leaves. Rake up shredded leaves and store them in plastic bags; stash them away until spring and use them in perennial gardens when planting.
Mulch: Shredded leaves make great organic mulch for flowerbeds, vegetable gardens or under trees and shrubs. A two- to three-inch layer is all you need to help the soil retain moisture and limit weed seed germination. Keep the mulch from touching the stems and trunks of plants and be sure to top up mulch when it starts to decompose.