Utilize Fall Leaves to Improve Any Soil in Simple Steps

I think it’s pretty safe to assume that most people dread the clutter and work necessary to clean up all the fall leaves that cover their yards every year.

Call me strange, but the treatment of autumn foliage in my garden is one of the highlights of the year for me. Although I do not appreciate the investment of time to move them from the lawn to the beds, I see it exactly for this-an investment.

For many years I have been collecting, blowing and raking the leaves on a flat area of my lawn, where I can grind them with my mulching mower and then rake them into my beds into a jagged layer of organic mulch. Even if you do not have enough leaves to collect in your own garden, you do not have to look very far to find neighbors or friends who will be happy to let you take your hands off them.

There is money in the bank with long-term benefits. The crushed leaves will immediately go to work to keep the soil and roots warmer, retain moisture and prevent many weeds from germinating.

Over time, these leaves will break down into rich, organic compost that will do wonders to improve the quality of any soil.

Although it is not an overnight transformation, in a few years even hard compacted clay will turn into an impressive mixture of rich clay soil several inches deep. In addition, plants and trees love the constant addition of organic matter and nutrients. You will love how easy it becomes to dig into this soil when new plants are planted, thanks to the work of these rotting leaves, which become a permanent part of what is under your feet.

The steps of converting leaves into rich, loamy organic matter that gives life to any garden soil are a simple process.

First, collect all the leaves that you want to shred in an area where you can mow them with your mulching mower or bagging accessories. Make sure that you do not create a layer of sheets that could be such that it clogs your trimmer. I find that a layer of a few inches works well. I also find that wet leaves can make this process much less effective. Try to avoid this project if the leaves are damp. Mow your leaves once or twice. Smaller parts combine better in beds and break down faster to improve your floor faster.

Once the leaves are cut into several small pieces, rub, blow or transfer the crushed leaves directly to their neighboring beds or into a container to distribute them to the desired places. Apply enough leaf mulch to cover the surface, ideally about 2″ thick. While it is good to leave a thin layer of leaves on the lawn, avoid leaving a lot that could cover a large part of your grass.

While the first two steps are enough to benefit from the leaf mulch, an optional third step is to apply an additional layer mulch on the leaves. Although this may seem excessive, it may be desirable if you want to make sure that the leaves are heavy enough to reduce the risk of blowing. Or maybe you want the look of a more consistent mulching blanket, like pine straw or hardwood mulch in your beds. Anyway, the extra mulch (provided it is not too thick (more than 4 “) will provide another layer of organic matter, which will eventually break down and add even more valuable organic matter to your soil).

That’s all there is to do. In my garden beds, I am pleased to say that my Old red and hard clay from Georgia is a rich, loamy land, which is easy to work after about 4-5 years of repeated annual deposits. Although this may not seem very fast, remember that once the leaves are in place, it is effortless. And as soon as they decompose, as I wrote earlier, only after that it will get better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.