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Leaves: Making Use of this Free Garden Gold


It can seem a bit sad to watch the leaves fall because it indicates that winter is coming. However, each year I get excited for the trees to shed their foliage because my garden gets a healthy layer of valuable, free, slowly decomposing material.

Benefits of Leaves in the Garden

There are several benefits of adding a layer of leaves to the surface of your garden over the winter. Keeping the soil heavily mulched prevents compaction and soil erosion from winter rain and snow, prevents winter weeds, and keeps the soil biology active. Microbes and fungi in the soil still need to feed over the winter even though there are few plant roots to feed and keep them active. Leaves slowly decompose, offering a steady supply of food so the soil is active and healthy when it’s time for spring planting. If you want leaves that are completely decomposed by spring, run them through a leaf shredder before adding them to the garden.

I also keep bagged leaves by my compost bin for an endless supply of brown materials to make compost throughout the year.

Garden Expansion

Leaves are also a valuable element for expanding the garden. In November I prep new beds by laying down a thick layer of cardboard and topping it with at least 8” of leaves. When it’s time for spring planting, I dig a hole and place my plants. By the end of summer, all the grass is gone and has been replaced with dark, loose soil. No tiller needed!


Not only do I move all of my own fallen leaves to the garden, I import them from my neighbors. Several of my neighbors rake and bag their leaves in special bags that they buy from the city. I have asked them to bag their leaves in regular trash bags and I will come pick them up. They save money and I get extra leaf mulch.


What is your favorite way to use leaves in the garden?


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The Restoration Garden by Tiffany Selvey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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