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Uses for Fallen Leaves

Uses for Fallen Leaves

If you have trees on your property, it is inevitable that you’ll soon have fallen leaves to deal with at this time of year.

When many of us were children, we loved to jump in great piles of them, or enjoy the whiff of bitter smoke as our parents and neighbors burned them — but now we donít want to add to the pollution problem. So what on earth can we do with them?

Instead of seeing leaves as a back-breaking nuisance to rake, we can think of fallen leaves as a great–and largely untapped–natural resource that can be a real boon to gardeners and homeowners! Here are some terrific uses for fallen leaves.

1. Compost
If you have room in your yard, you can make a nice big pile of whole leaves that will eventually (in six months or so) turn into great compost for your garden or potted plants, rich in the leaf mold that is so filled with nutrients. If you donít have a lot of room for a big leaf pile, shredding your leaves will reduce their volume (and the time it takes for them to break down) considerably.

If you have a kitchen-waste-and-grass-clippings compost pile, you can also save bags of leaves for use during summer months to cover the sometimes-smelly heap. (In the proper ratio, brown leaves combined with green ingredients such as freshly-cut grass and vegetable scraps make for great compost health. That ratio is usually 50 percent brown material to 50 percent green, although 75 percent brown to 25 percent green is optimum. Given the amount of scraps and grass we usually generate over the course of a summer, fallen leaves become pretty important!) While some sources say leaf-only piles may be left alone, it is generally agreed that you should turn green-and-brown compost regularly to aerate it.

For more on composting leaves, see Composting Fallen Leaves.

And for the composting basics, see Building a Compost Heap.

2. Mulch
You can simply rake medium-sized leaves (excluding any that appear diseased) to cover garden beds and borders to a depth of several inches. The leaves will eventually break down, providing protection and nutrients, as well as a happy home for the worms that are so beneficial to our garden soil. Larger leaves will require shredding first.

3. Insulation
One autumn, several of us met at a friendís house to help her rake leaves, gathering them into plastic bags that we then stacked around her partially-exposed exterior basement wall and in the crawl space underneath the cottage that was also on her property. We made a party of it, and she reported that the leafy insulation really saved on heating bills!

Leaves also provide a quick-and-easy way to protect containers from frost: Simply surround the pots with bags of leaves.

Read more: Nature, Lawns & Gardens

By Cait Johnson, Assistant Producer, Care2 Healthy Living Channels.

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Cait Johnson

Cait Johnson, MFA, is the author of six books, including Earth, Water, Fire, and Air: Essential Ways of Connecting to Spirit, Witch in the Kitchen, Celebrating the Great Mother and Tarot Games. She has been a counselor for more than 20 years, and teaches workshops on seasonal elemental approaches to self-healing, conscious eating, and soul-nurturing creativity.

82 comments

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8:39PM PDT on Apr 6, 2014

Thank you!

4:15PM PDT on Oct 31, 2013

Great suggestions.Fallen leaves make good compost and mulch, indeed. For insulation? Worth a try.

5:53AM PDT on Oct 19, 2013

good idea, tks

11:52AM PDT on Oct 18, 2013

Thank you for good tips.

6:52PM PDT on Oct 17, 2013

I might try the insulation tip! ty

1:14PM PDT on Oct 16, 2013

Thank you for posting.

10:42AM PDT on Oct 15, 2013

I hadn't heard about the insulation idea before. Worth a try, I suppose.

7:21AM PDT on Oct 14, 2013

Thanks--i use them 4 mulching.

5:31AM PDT on Oct 14, 2013

Thanks!

3:19AM PDT on Oct 14, 2013

I have a large coral/flame tree (Erythrina) that provides enough leaves to mulch several fruit trees over winter. We don't have snow, but it does rain a lot, so the leaves have broken down by spring.

What was once poor, gravelly soil is now rich and crumbly. Absolutely nothing in my garden goes to waste, it all gets recycled.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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