We have one big tree in our backyard, and once it starts shedding its leaves in the fall, raking them up becomes a never-ending chore! And while this period only lasts for a few weeks, we end up collecting a truly mind-boggling amount of leaves when all is said and done.
But even though the leaves are a chore to clean up, at least we can put them to good use! And that’s what today’s post is all about: how to compost leaves for your garden and other useful things you can do with them! :-)
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Why Are Leaves Good For Your Garden?
Leaves are full of nutrients and trace minerals, making them a virtual feast for earthworms and microbes in the soil. They’re also great for compost piles, as their carbon content can help provide balance to nitrogen-rich compost.
Leaves are also nature’s insulation, and you can use them either as-is or broken down in compost to protect your garden throughout the winter! Next, you’ll learn exactly how to compost leaves for use in your garden, and then I’ll share a few other ways you can put leaves to good use!
How To Compost Leaves For Your Garden
For a quick overview on how composting works and how to get started making your own, read my post on the topic here. There’s plenty of useful information there about why, when, and how to use leaves in your compost!
Tip #1: Use These Leaves
The best leaves for composting are low in lignin (a structural material that slows decay) and higher in both calcium and nitrogen. This includes leaves from the following trees:
- Fruit trees
Tip #2: Avoid These Leaves
Bad leaves for composting are those higher in lignin and low in nitrogen and calcium. Some leaves also contain natural herbicides that can prevent seed germination, so you want to avoid those as well.
Avoid using leaves from the following trees in your compost:
- Sweet chestnut
- Black walnut
Tip #3: Shred Them Up
Composting leaves takes time, but you can speed the process up quite a bit by shredding them before adding them to your compost pile. And since whole leaves have a tendency to mat together, shredding them helps ensure you’ll be able to incorporate them evenly.
3 More Ways To Use Leaves In Your Garden
1. Insulate Tender Plants
A six-inch blanket of leaves can help protect hardy plants from frigid winter weather. Cover cold-hardy vegetables like carrots, leeks, beets, and kale, and you’ll be able to harvest them all winter!
2. Improve Your Soil
Cover your garden beds with shredded leaves before the snow arrives. This leafy layer will protect the soil from erosion and loss of nutrients.
Then in the spring when the snow thaws, just till the remaining leaves into the soil. It will help aerate your soil and prepare it for planting!
3. Make Leaf Mold
You can use leaves to make your own leaf mold, which mimics the soft layer of decaying leaves found on forest floors. It’s not quite as nutrient-rich as compost, but it has the benefits of being quicker and easier to make!
Just make a large bin using chicken wire, snow fencing, or other outdoor material. Fill your bin with leaves and dampen them, and they’ll be ready to use next spring or summer!
For more details about making leaf mold and how to use it, check out this YouTube video from GrowVeg!
Bonus Tip: Use The Right Equipment!
No matter what you plan on doing with all your leaves, using the right equipment will make it easier to gather them up! A good rake is a must, and I’ve been enjoying using this telescoping, lightweight rake.
I also recommend getting a collapsible gardening bag like this one. You can use it for storage, container gardening, or as a reusable collection bag for leaves!
What do you do with all your leaves in the fall?