Autumn leaves. Photo by Tamara Dean WHAT do you do with fallen leaves from deciduous trees?
I often cringe when I see people tipping leaves into their garbage bin. We all know that they can be a nuisance at times, blocking gutters and downpipes, but did you know that leaves are full of nutrients and can be used as a garden mulch and compost?
There are a few different ways to put leaves to good use in the garden. Depending upon whether the leaves are fine or coarse, most leaf matter, unless shredded, will take about six months before it becomes a dark compost which more often than not will be alive with garden worms.
I prefer to simply pick up the leaves when I mow the lawn which cuts them up finely and mixes them with the lawn clippings which provides a nice blend of organic matter ready to go straight into the compost heap.
As the lawns are not growing quickly at this time of the year you might need to rake up any leaves from under trees and add them to the compost heap in between mowings.
Reducing the leaf size will aid the decomposition, so running the whipper snipper through a pile of leaves before mowing will also help.
If you have access to a garden shredder/mulcher you can throw the fallen leaves in when doing the winter pruning.
Another option is to rake the leaves up and place into a separate pile in an unused corner of the backyard. It may be necessary, if the spot is in an open area, to cover the leaves to prevent the wind from blowing them everywhere.
An enclosure made from chicken wire and some timber or metal stakes is also a practical solution as it allows air to flow freely through the heap while it is decomposing.
Adding shredded or torn up paper to the leaves can help to give the heap a bit of body.
An old garbage bin with a lid will hold small amounts of leaves but you will have to drill some holes in the base and sides for aeration.
If you have an ornamental garden with trees and shrubs, any fallen leaves can be raked up and placed throughout the garden just as you would with any other type of mulch.
One thing to avoid is too many leaves from native plants as the natural oil content can cause soils to be become water repellent (hydrophobic).