Don't Burn those Leaves, Please!
Instead of burning or hauling leaves every autumn, put them to work in your garden. Your flowers (and veggies) will thank you next summer. Here are four simple ways to use nature's rich organic material.
Rich, Leafy Compost
Leaves are a perfect addition to compost. They provide carbon (brown waste), and they break down rapidly. Balance brown waste with nitrogen-rich (green) waste such as grass clippings, coffee grounds and kitchen scraps. As a general rule, compost should consist of approximately two-thirds brown waste and one-third green waste.
To keep things simple, keep a bag of chopped leaves near your compost pile and toss on a handful every time you add kitchen waste. Don't add too many at one time or you'll have a soggy mess. Cover the pile loosely with a tarp or plastic sheeting to protect it from the weather.
Stir or turn the pile occasionally to keep it aerated and the compost will be ready to use in four to six months.
If your compost pile isn't large enough to accommodate a large pile of leaves, stuff the extra leaves into burlap bags and store them in your shed. Use the leaves when brown material is difficult to find during spring and summer.
Let the Leaves Take Care of the Composting
If you don't have a compost pile, you can still compost the leaves. The resulting leaf mold doesn't have enough nutrients to be an effective fertilizer, but it makes a great soil amendment or mulch.
Make the pile about 4 feet wide and 3 feet high; if it is too large or too small, the leaves won't build up enough heat to decompose effectively. Put a thin layer of plain ol' garden soil between every 12 inches of leaves.
Cover the pile to protect it from the elements, but don't compress the pile because compacted clumps of leaves won't decompose.The leaves will be dark, crumbly and ready to use in about a year.
Hate to Rake? Who Doesn't?
There is no rule that leaves must be raked. Instead, chop the leaves with your mower on the highest setting. Leave the chopped leaves where they lay and let them work their magic as they decompose into your lawn throughout the winter.
Keep up with leaves by mowing weekly; knee-deep leaves are difficult to mow.
Dust to Dust and All That Stuff
If a compost pile isn't your thing, dig 2 or 3 inches of chopped leaves directly into the soil. Earthworms and microorganisms in the soil will break down the leaves by spring planting time.