Fall has officially arrived, and with it comes many of my favorites such as trees changing colors, football, chili, a break from the heat, bonfires, and looking forward to the winter holidays!
What I don’t care for too much would be all the falling leaves that will start happening soon. We have a lot of trees around us, so the lawn eventually will be a leaf blanket and quite thick.
A couple years ago, we decided that our family was getting a little too old for the fun of falling leaves, raking them into big piles and jumping into them. It’s just not as cool to do when you are a teenager, I guess.
Yet, we didn’t want to feel the back pain for a couple days or develop blisters, just to bag them all and toss out.
So, we started riding over them with the riding lawn mower instead. What we found is that it made a very cheap (cost of gas only) and easy way to mulch our yard for the winter. We weren’t sure it was going to work, but it did, and beautifully. In fact, last year we weren’t able to do it, because our mower broke down. And, this spring our grass wasn’t nearly as nice as it was the last couple years.
But, it got me thinking: are there other advantages to falling leaves? Yes, apparently there are.
As I mentioned above, use your riding mower to make mulch for the lawn. Simply ride over the leaves a few times until they are all finely chopped. Here’s the hardest part, leave it. Don’t rake it up.
Yes, your lawn will look a little on the brown side for a short period. But, the tiny bits will break down over the winter and into the spring months to give the lawn incredible organic nutrients.
Depending on how many trees and leaves you have, you might have to do this more than once. It should be done with 6” or less of leaves lying on the ground. Then, if more fall later, do it again.
Make sure to take off the bagging attachment before you do this, because you want to leave it on the ground, not pick it up. Another important tip for this is to make sure rocks and large sticks are picked up before riding through the leaves. You don’t want to be surprised with flying objects coming from below the mower.
Leaf mold is another term for compost, but it’s leaves only. Nothing else is added. This takes time, and a little more effort than the riding mower method. Collect the leaves, fully intact or not, and place them in plastic bins or bags.
Store these leaves for 2-3 years. But, make sure to keep them moist. Fungi will eventually take over and make a nutritious leaf mold.
In a couple years, the leaves should have disintegrated into a dark nutrient-rich conditioner, which is great for soil. You should also notice that it will have a somewhat sweet odor.
Protective Mulch for Landscaping and Gardens
Chopped leaves can help with weed control and barrier for protection from the winter for your perennials, shrubs, and trees. It will also help conserve moisture.
All you need to do is spread the chopped leaves around the bases, and it will act as an insulating cover and retain moisture.
A layer of leaves will also help bulbs that are planted in the fall, such as garlic or tulips. It will help them take root without actual sprouting, while protecting them from frost.
Great Way to Store Root Vegetables
Are you looking for a good way to store your root vegetables? Find a humid and cool location, one where you can store your root veggies, such as beets or carrots.
Place the vegetables between layers of damp leaves. If they are not damp, sprinkle each layer with water. Just make sure to not make them too wet or soggy.
This will help protect the vegetables until you are ready to use them. You could even use this method of storage if you purchase your root vegetables at the local farmer’s market.
If you save them over the winter, you can use the leaves to act as a weed barrier for your spring plantings. These can either be left whole, or chopped up.
They will suppress weeds from coming up, as well as help to retain necessary moisture for the soil when planting your spring produce and plants.
Make a Compost
Leaves will make a wonderfully rich compost to boost your soil when planting. It’s rich in carbon and will compliment seasonal grass clippings that can be rich in nitrogen. The combination makes for a rich soil environment for many plantings.
Simply save some leaves from the fall.
Then when spring comes, layer about 3-4 inches of the leaves with about 1 inch of freshly cut grass clippings, and you will have an all natural and rich compost to help your garden and landscaping.
So, if your leaf pile jumping days are over, make sure you take advantage of the falling leaves for the benefit of your surroundings…and your back. Even if you still like to pile them up and jump in them, put them to good use when you are done!
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