When tackling fallen leaves in your garden this autumn, it’s important to review whether you’re being eco-friendly. Bagging leaves for landfill or burning leaves harms the environment, so instead look at what you can do with autumn leaves.
If composting leaves isn’t for you, have no fear! Leaves can be mowed into mulch or left to decompose naturally. This will return essential nutrients to your garden for free!
Fallen leaves can be a great way of using natural resources to sustainably grow your garden. Whether you have grass, plants, vegetables, or trees, leaves can fertilize the soil without any synthetic chemicals or any cost to you.
Are old leaves good for the garden?
By leaving old leaves in your garden, you can add organic matter into the soil which will be good for any plants or critters there.
Leaf litter can provide habitats to minibeasts like spiders, slugs, beetles, worms, centipedes, caterpillars, and more. These then provide food for birds and small mammals like hedgehogs.
Leaf litter can also harbor pests and diseases if they come from diseased or pest-infested plants, so it’s a good idea to check the health of the leaves or nearby trees. If in doubt, mulch the leaves or dispose of them by burying them in grass away from trees.
Are dead leaves good for trees?
Having a layer of dead leaves around the roots of trees is what nature wants. The dead lives replenish the soil for the roots, returning nutrients into the tree.
If you have lots of paving space around a tree or shrub, brush the leaves over to your plants or the soil so the leaves can decompose naturally.
Is it OK to pile leaves around a tree?
Piling leaves around a tree are OK! However, too much moisture can cause rot around the base of the tree, so try to spread them more in smaller piles or space them out.
If you have too many leaves in your garden, try mulching the leaves and adding them to your compost heap or burying them in soil for next year.
Are dead leaves good for grass?
Dead leaves can benefit grass just as much as trees by decomposing into mulch and returning nutrients into the soil. Leaves can help enhance lawn fertility and soil nutrition without much help.
For best results, mow the leaf litter to speed up its mulching and spread the mulch evenly across the grass. This will ensure that all of the soil benefits from nutrients and ensures that moisture doesn’t build up disproportionately.
Can fallen leaves be used as fertilizer?
Fallen leaves are a natural fertilizer. Fertilizer is any natural substance added to soil or land to increase its fertility, which is exactly what leaves do.
To fertilize your garden quickly, it’s best to use a lawnmower or mulching mower to cut up the leaves into small pieces.
This will help the leaves break down more quickly and reduce how much moisture is trapped under the leaves.
You can use a mower with a bag to gather the shredded leaves to spread over garden beds too.
Should I leave fallen leaves on my flower beds?
Leaving fallen leaves on your flower beds is a great way of recycling nutrients into the soil, but you need to be careful that the leaves aren’t introducing disease or pests.
If you see any signs of disease or pests, collect them and dispose of them as soon as possible. Some common signs include powdery mildew and fungus spores on the tree’s bark.
Are dried leaves good for the soil?
Dried leaves are good for soil but will break down more slowly than wet leaves. While dried leaves will break down over time, it’s best to bury them under the soil to speed up the decomposition process and return nutrients to the ground more quickly.
Burying leaves can also prevent too much moisture from building on top of the soil, which could contribute to the growth of mold.
Why dead leaves are important for soil
Dead leaves are important for nature like everything is in the ecosystem. It’s important for leaves to shed their leaves and let the nutrients return to the ground.
Leaves decay to form humus, which is a dark organic material that piles up on top of the soil. Humus is made up of decaying plant and animal matter.
Earthworms mix humus with minerals in the soil, and nutrients are released into the soil as the matter decays.
Humus is also produced by composting – humus is what is left after the composting process, while compost is still-decaying organic matter.
Humus is loose and allows air and water to move easily throughout the soil, ensuring oxygen can reach plant roots.
The nutrients released by humus are essential for soil fertility and the use of earthworms ensures that these minerals can be spread throughout the soil.
Do fallen leaves pollute soil?
Fallen leaves don’t pollute soil, but they can form a layer that retains too much moisture. This can damage the soil and promote the growth of fungus or harmful pests.
It’s best to sift through the fallen leaves and ensure an even spread over the soil. Otherwise, turning the leaves into mulch or burying the leaves will help the soil the most.
Do fallen leaves add nutrients to soil?
Yes! Fallen leaves add nutrients to the soil by breaking it down into carbon, water, and nutrients. This is a natural process for trees to fertilize themselves.
According to Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners, leaves can “supply a wider range of essential nutrients than a bag of 10-10-10 synthetic fertilizer”.
Leaves contain carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and twelve other nutrients and minerals. A study by Rutgers University found that municipal leaves contain an average concentration of:
- 47% carbon
- 64% calcium
- 1% nitrogen
- 38% potassium
- 24% magnesium
- 11% sulfur
- 1% phosphorous
The dead leaves also contained boron, iron, manganese, zinc, sodium, chlorine, copper, cobalt, and nickel.
Do dead leaves add nitrogen to soil?
By letting leaves degrade on top of the soil, you can recycle nitrogen and other nutrients into the soil.
These nutrients have traveled from the soil into the roots of a tree, contributed to the growth of leaves, and are then returned to the ground when autumn arrives.
Is it OK to use leaves as mulch?
It’s okay to use leaves as mulch, and it’s a much more sustainable and organic method of providing your garden with the necessary nutrients. It’s best to prepare for using leaves as mulch by checking what’s best for your plants, as well as how to spot diseased leaves.
Leaf mulch can take a while to degrade into hummus, so don’t be surprised if you still have mulch in spring or even longer.
If you want the benefits of leaf mulch but aren’t sure about leaving them on the ground, set up a temporary compost heap at the bottom of your garden.
Leaves are a source of carbon so you’ll need a steady supply of nitrogen to balance out the ratio. Common nitrogen sources for compost heaps include vegetable scraps and grass.
You can buy a compost bin to keep the smell contained, but make sure you turn the compost regularly and air can still get into the compost, otherwise, you’ll only end up with pre-compost, which needs to be buried in the soil. Unless that’s what you’d prefer!
Is it better to mulch your leaves or bag them?
It’s much better for the environment if you mulch your leaves. Bagging leaves means you need to send them away somewhere, and often that ‘somewhere’ is a landfill.
Bagging isn’t worth your time for doing extra harm to the environment!
Mulching leaves doesn’t have to be difficult either. If you have a lawnmower, you can mulch them. If you have a shredder, you should be able to shred them, though make sure to check if your model can cope with this first.
You can even buy leaf mulchers that also have the ability to vacuum up the leaves.
Is mulching leaves better than raking?
Mulching leaves is better than raking, and it takes about the same amount of time.
However, piles of leaves can also be home to many critters and support your local ecosystem, so there’s no harm in leaving some leaf piles for a few days or weeks until you’re ready to mulch.
If you want to rake your leaf mulch to specific areas of your garden, you can. Just make sure you’re not going to cause rot – moisture will collect in and under the mulch.