Trees offer a lot of great things in our world. They provide shade on hot days, they are beautiful points of interest in the landscape, and they put off oxygen. Trees go one step further by providing free compost every fall!
We have really had some beautiful fall color during the last few weeks, and the trees are starting to lose their leaves. Before you purchase landscape waste bags and start raking, consider using the leaves for mulch or compost in your landscape.
Leaves can be used in the home landscape in a few different ways.
Leaves contain 50 to 80 percent of the nutrients a plant takes from the air and soil during the season, so take advantage of the nutrients by using them in your lawn and garden.
A light layer of leaves on the ground can be mowed and left in the lawn. This is simple and fast, and you will barely see the leaves in the lawn after you have mowed them. The leaves will continue to breakdown and be a good source of fertilizer for your lawn.
You can also use leaves as a mulch in your landscape beds or vegetable garden. Mulches reduce evaporation from the soil surface, inhibit weed growth, moderate soil temperatures, prevent erosion and compaction, and release valuable nutrients into the soil. One easy way to collect and shred the leaves is to use the bagging attachment on your mower. Leaves that have been mowed or run through some type of shredder will stay in place better and decompose faster. After you mow the leaves and collect them in the bag, you can pour them out wherever you need them most. Use them in your garden walkway, around the base of trees, or in your landscape beds.
Leaves can also be used to improve your soil. A six to eight-inch layer of leaves tilled into heavy clay soil will improve aeration and drainage. Fall is a good time to work the leaves into the soil of your vegetable garden or annual planting beds because the leaves will decompose over winter and be ready for spring planting. You can also pile the leaves up in a compost bin and let them decompose to use as compost later in your garden.
This year, instead of putting a lot of work into raking leaves, put those leaves to work in your landscape as mulch or compost! For more information about lawn and garden topics, contact County Extension Agent, Kate Whitney, at the Williamson AgriLife Extension Office at 512-943-3300.