Fallen Leaves Are Garden Gold, NOT Your Enemy

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fallen leaves

In a second I’ll tell you why fallen leaves are gold. But for now, let me define the term “leaf mold” since I’ll be using it a lot for this post.

You might know what it is but I’ll just assume some of you don’t. It’s the combination of fallen leaves and dark, brittle compost. Simply put, it’s a decayed matter. A lot of beginner gardeners think this dirty pile of leaves is useless. In truth, it has a lot of uses in your garden.

A leaf mold can be used as a mulch, as a foundation for your soil mix, and to improve soil structure. And fallen leaves can be turned into a leaf mold. In contrast to what others believe, fallen leaves are garden gold, they are not your enemy! Burning them and getting rid of them in any way is not recommended.

Let me give you a trivia. Did you know that dead leaves still have some of the nutrients of the tree from which it came from? Though considered as a kind of plant litter, dead leaves contain detritus and dead organic material. These two forms the upper layer of the soil, which is called Organic Horizon or O Horizon. This layer serves as the passage for nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen to enter the soil. They get into the soil and plants can absorb them through their roots.

Fallen leaves even feed the ecosystem a.k.a. your garden. They do so when they break down and act as food for fungi and bacteria. It’s more like a love story really. Bacteria sees fallen leaves and sings “Starving” by Hailee Steinfeld and the rest is history. Fallen leaves are also the homes of moth larvae, skinks, toads, spiders, bees, and butterflies. They also provide a productive ecosystem and they exist to help make your soil fertile. Without them, you’ll have a barren ecosystem that’s always yearning for food.

So, here are the ways you can deal with your newly found gold:

  1. Mow, mow, mow your gold.

Yes, I know it sounds corny. But it makes a lot of sense! Mowing these leaves into your lawn is a work of a genius! Use a mulching mower and mow them. When they break down, they’ll decay and decompose. While they do so, they’re already giving nutrients to your garden. Do this often so you won’t have to mulch a lot at a time.

  1. Till and chill.

Tilling the fallen leaves into your garden prior to your planting of a winter cover crop is a great idea especially if your soil is clay. Just collect the leaves and spread them around your garden while you rake them up and harvest them.

  1. Compost them leaves!

These garden gold can also be added to your pile of compost. They can be alternated with green leaf clippings or food scraps. But be sure you turn the pile regularly for aeration.

  1. Shred their lives into pieces; it’s not the last resort.

You can also introduce fallen leaves to the leaf shredder you bought or borrowed. Once shredded, they can serve as a useful mulch for your garden beds. All you have to do is layer them about three to six inches deep, surrounding young plants and cold-season vegetables if you have any. Just be careful not to touch the stems of the plants. As a mulch, they can help retain soil moisture, control its temperature, and stop the growth of weed seeds. Over time, they will also improve the quality of the soil.

  1. Leaf mold? Yes, please!

But don’t you dare put it down on me! Your leaf pile can transform into a leaf mold in about three years’ time. When they’re just entrusted with the wind, water, and the sun, they’ll decompose and finally work as soil for potted plants or be used in your garden beds.

  1. Save them from the nothing they’ve become.

You’re probably getting tired of my song references so here’s the last one. You can save these fallen leaves for the next Spring. Store them in leaf bags and they’ll be useful in the future.