A distinctive feature of the fall season is the annual yield of tree leaves. While these leaves can actually serve a practical purpose for trees, they can become a nuisance to many homeowners who go to great lengths to keep their lawns nice and tidy. Fortunately, homeowners have plenty of options at their disposal, aside from throwing them in the trash can, when faced with the blanket of dry leaves they can each fall. In fact, as this guide shows, there are several creative ways to recycle fall leaves.
1. Create mulch for your garden
One reason the leaves fall to the ground each fall is to suppress competing plants around the tree’s root system. This mass of dead leaves actually contains a high concentration of nutrients that can be very beneficial to plants. With that in mind, you can utilize the nutrients contained in the leaves by mulching them. However, just gathering the leaves in clusters will not do the job. Instead, you can create a great mulch mix by cutting the leaves with a lawn mower. A lawnmower with an attached bag will add a good amount of glass clippings, which will add even more nutrients to the mix. Use this combination in flower beds and really anywhere in your garden that can use a nutrient booster.
2. Build your compost
Although it takes a bit of time and work, another way to use the nutrients that are hidden in those fallen leaves is to create a compost pile (or container). Like leaf mulch, it is best shredded when creating compost. To build a good compost pile, mix in some green material, such as grass clippings, along with the dead leaves. This will help speed up decomposition. Also, you will need some kind of container to hold the mixture, which should be kept moist and turned all year round. Done correctly, you will have nutritious soil to add to your garden just when spring arrives.
3. Place the chicken bedding
If you are raising chickens, the dead leaves can be a great source of bedding. Chickens are notorious for scratching, so a thick layer of leaves is a good way to keep chickens happy and the coop in a reasonably clean condition. To accomplish this, collect the leaves in a large garbage bag and keep them in a place that you can keep dry throughout the winter to prevent spoilage. As you add layers of sheets to bedding, the sheets break down over time. This means that we need to add a new layer of leaves every few weeks. (This mixture of decomposed leaves and droppings can be used in garden beds for additional plant nutrients.)
4. Build up a sheet mold
Another method of composting fallen leaves is to use a leaf mold. A leaf mold is similar to compost and produces a dark-looking end product. This mixture easily to easily crumble, contains a large amount of nutrients and helps to lighten the soil beds. To create a leaf mold, simply gather a good amount of dead leaves in a pile and wait until the pile breaks down into compost.
5. Isolate flower beds
Because the leaves create a thick, layered blanket when spread over the ground, they can be used to insulate plants from harsh winter conditions. When the weather starts to cool down, simply gather the leaves in and around perennials and shrubs to provide a little extra insulation during colder temperatures. Keep in mind that as the weather starts to warm up, you have to rake those leaves to make the ground warm hot. If you keep dead leaves in a dry enough place, you can even use them to protect against those random spring frosts that threaten less mature plants.
Keep in mind that controlled leaves are a bit more acidic than traditional compost materials, so it is always a good idea to monitor pH levels in the soil when adding leaf-based compost. Also, try to keep tree seeds out of your mulch as much as possible, as they can lead to sprouts in the spring. Lastly, the time it takes to fully decompose dead tree leaves depends on a number of factors, including the type of leaf, humidity, air flow, and the mix of green materials included in the mix.