A Warning When Using Fallen Leaves As Mulch

fallen leavesFall, with its crisp, cool air and breathtakingly beautiful trees, paint the lands in an array of stunning color. Yet as the days pass by, the once captivating leaves begin to wilt away, falling from the trees and landing in heaps on our lawns.

Instead of raking the leaves to toss aside on the curb or gathering them in trash bags to be collected by the garbage man, why not put them to good use? Fallen leaves are great for using as natural mulch. Not only will using them save you money from buying mulch, but they will also help to enrich your soil, lock in moisture and protect your plants from the cold temperatures often associated with the fast-approaching winter season.

When using leaves as a mulch, make sure to shred them first with a mulching mower, shredder or leaf blower on the vacuum setting. A light layer of small, thin leaves applied without first being shredded is fine, but for the most part shredding is important. Adding too thick of a layer of leaves can block air and water from penetrating the ground. Thick layers of leaves can also do the exact opposite—locking in too much moisture, potentially damaging the plants that need well-drained soil or are susceptible to rot and other fungal diseases.

Once a layer of small and/or shredded leaves is applied to your beds, you can add the remainder to your compost bin, pack them up in bags for spring mulch use or you can dispose of the rest according to your city or town’s guidelines, such as raking them to the curb for collection, bagging them for pickup or delivery them to a municipal compost pile. You can also use a mulching mower to chop up a thin layer to be left on your lawn as a nitrogen-rich fertilizer.

Image: Alpsdake
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