On a recent walk through the neighborhood with our family dog, it was apparent that fall was in full swing. Except for the evergreens, fewer trees have a full canopy of green leaves. Deciduous tree leaves are transitioning in color from green to yellow, orange, red, and purple hues as temperatures decrease and day lengths shorten. The changing color of leaves is a spectacular event most years. However, nothing announces the arrival of autumn like leaves raining down from trees to scatter across the landscape. This serves as a reminder that fallen leaves are a free, valuable, and often underused natural resource.
Past blogs have offered simple ways to repurpose fallen leaves. Ideas include:
- nutrient recycling
- soil amendments (as compost or leaf mold)
- weed suppression
- wildlife habitat & winter cover
- playgrounds & arts crafting
- and using leaves as leaves
Visit What to Do with All the Leaves?, Leave the Leaves for Fireflies, and Fall Leaves: To Leave or Not to Leave for more information.
The sound of leaf blowers moving leaves from one location to another in the distance is also common in the fall season. Unfortunately, this sound often ends with bagged leaves headed to the landfill. But why send the leaves away when they are so valuable?
Recycling leaves closer to home reduces waste in landfills and the fuels used to transport them there. Additionally, using leaves in gardens and landscapes can improve stormwater management and reduce flooding caused by clogged residential street drains.
Additional ideas for putting those valuable leaves to work in the garden, rather than sending them to the landfill, including using them:
- as chicken coop bedding
- as a garden blanket on fallow land or during crop rotation
- as a layer in lasagna gardening
- as insulation for bulbs in a new or old flower bed
- in newly potted plants (a few dried leaves will do)
- to start a worm composting bin
- to stuff a scarecrow
- as a donation to a community garden for reuse
Considering that fallen leaves in a forest ecosystem are recycled into vital nutrients used for plant growth, our landscapes should function the same. So be creative and consider new ways to repurpose your leaves this fall and winter. The reward will last for years.