For centuries, people referred to the third season of the year as “harvest”. However, that term became less favorable as more and more people began to relocate to cities in the 1600s. It was replaced with the phrase “fall of the leaf”, which was eventually shortened to just “fall”.
If you’re like most people in the Northern Hemisphere, you’re currently experiencing the turning leaf colors and piles of fallen leaves in your yard that come with the colder weather.
While fall foliage looks spectacular, it also sparks the dreaded question; what do we do with all of these leaves?
Here are five ways that you can repurpose leaves in-and-around your yard.
Mulch is organic material that is layered on top of soil in order to retain moisture, preserve and add nutrients, and control weeds. Winter mulch is particularly good for more delicate plants, such as hydrangeas and roses that are prone to frostbite. Using a 4-6 inch layer of fallen leaves allows you to insulate roots and cover perennial plants and flowers so that they’ll survive the harsh winter months.
The problem with only using fallen leaves as mulch is that they tend to form a dense and soggy mat whenever they get wet. This can lead to the plants underneath getting smothered. To solve this problem, you want to mix the leaves with grass so that it becomes ‘fluffy’ and decomposes more quickly. Thanks to equipment like the Cyclone Rake, you can vacuum and chop up those leaves and freshly mowed grass clippings in your yard, which can be easily used for mulch.
Composting is one of the most effective, affordable, and environmentally-friendly ways to improve the health of your garden or yard since it adds vital nutrients to the soil.
A compost pile breaks down most efficiently when it contains a three to one ratio of brown carbon-rich ingredients and green nitrogen-rich ingredients, like grass clippings. Since leaves are full of carbon they make for an excellent “brown” ingredient for your compost pile.
Like with mulch, you can use Cyclone Rake to easily gather all of your green and brown ingredients. After you have gathered your browns and greens, place them in a pile or barrel that gets plenty of shade. Keep mixing in new materials, (straw, branches, eggshells, and carrot tops work great as well), and watering your pile occasionally. Once spring arrives you’ll have fresh, nutrient-rich compost to place over your garden.
- Leaf Mold
Despite its name, a leaf mold is not a fungus. It’s a leaf-only compost pile that can be used to retain moisture in the soil, prevent runoff, keep roots cool in the warmer months, and will moderate the pH levels in your soil.
The easiest way to create a leaf mold is to rake them up in a large pile, around a six foot square and five feet high, and let them sit there for 2 or 3 years. If you’re not that patient, then you can shred the leaves so that your mold is ready in 8 to 12 months.
Once the leaves are soft and crumbly, they’re ready to spread around your perennials and vegetable plants. Make sure that your spread is no more than three inches thick so you don’t suffocate plants.
- Leave Leaves for Wildlife.
According to the National Wildlife Federation, “Many wildlife species live in or rely on the leaf layer to find food and alternate habitats.”
Additionally, there is a number of butterfly and moth species that hibernate in leaf litter during the winter. These species aren’t just beautiful; they are a critically important food source for birds in the spring when they are feeding their young.
If you want to keep your yard clean, but still want to create a habitat for insects and wildlife, simply rake leaves underneath hedges or place piles out of the way, such as the far corners of your yard.
- Get crafty.
The orange, yellow, and dark red colors of fallen leaves are great for art projects, both indoors and outside. For example, you can use fallen leaves as patterns for tablecloths of for constructing a wind chime.
If you have children, you can have them create autumn crowns and create an outdoor sculpture where leaves are sorted by color and placed on-top of a fallen tree or along the stones around your garden. What better way to spend an afternoon in the fall?