Fall is such a beautiful time of the year but before we know it the leaves have fallen and we are left with the seemingly never ending task of raking up leaves. This year I encourage you to look at all those dead leaves as a treasure of organic matter that can be used in many ways in your landscape.
The easiest use of all those leaves is to incorporate them directly into your soil. Add four to six inches of shredded leaves into the soil of your garden or flower beds. To shred the leaves, you can pile them up and run the lawn mower over them a few times. The leaves will naturally break down over the winter months and you will have a healthier soil in the spring. The leaves will break down quicker if there is moisture in the soil. This means if we have a dry winter, you should water the soil to accelerate the decomposition process.
Leaves also make a great mulch for your plants. Add three to four inches of shredded leaves around your plants now or in the spring. Make sure you leave a few inches around the base of each plant so the plant can breathe and will not rot. The advantages of mulching are endless, it helps conserve moisture and control weeds. Which means less maintenance for you during the hot summer months.
Composting leaves is another great way to turn all that dead material into something usable. Compost bins are easy to start and require little care. Fall leaves contain higher amounts of carbon and less nitrogen. So to get them to break down quickly in a compost pile, it is best to add six to eight inches of plant material and then add a one-inch layer of soil. A small amount of an all-purpose garden fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, can also be added to supply nitrogen to the microbes. Continue to build the compost pile in layers until it is 3 to 5 feet high. It is also important to keep your compost pile moist and remember to turn it every two to three weeks. Compost piles are a great way to reuse plant materials that would otherwise be thrown away.
Even though it may seem like a daunting task, pick a nice fall day and rake up all those leaves. It’s important for the health of your lawn and an easy way to turn trash into treasure.
For further information on composting, contact Cassie at any Post Rock Extension District Office in Beloit, Lincoln, Mankato, Osborne or Smith Center, or email firstname.lastname@example.org