These days you cannot help but notice leaves. They are everywhere, swirling down the street in the wind, smothering the lawn, clogging landscape drains. As autumn advances, leaves of deciduous trees are no longer filtering the air doing their work of photosynthesis. They are down on the ground, in your yard making a mess.
For some homeowners, fallen leaves are a nuisance, causing extra yardwork and clogging the rain gutters. Fallen leaves are actually of great value in the garden and natural environment. Here is how you can put them to good use in your garden:
Mow, don’t rake: When the lawn gets covered with leaves, feed it. Simply run the mover over the area a couple of times to get a good shred. The leaf material will work its way into the soil, feeding and conditioning the lawn.
Compost: Shredded leaves added to the compost heap add the carbon material, the brown that makes a good cooking compost pile. Adding two parts green material to one part brown keeps the pile from becoming soggy.
Mulch: Shredded leaves make excellent, nutritious mulch — and it is free if you have a bunch of leaves. Before mulching, shred first with the mower. Whole leaves can mat down and take too long to decompose.
Rototill: Shredded leaves tilled directly into the garden soil will add a good quantity of organic matter to garden soil. The material will decompose all winter, making for a nice fertile soil for spring planting.
Protect: In extra cold winter areas, you can use mounds of whole leaves to protect frost/freeze sensitive plants.
Terry Kramer is the site manager for the Humboldt Botanical Garden and a trained horticulturist and journalist. She has been writing a garden column for the Times-Standard since 1982. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.