Above: Autumn leaves are not trash! Use them to make next year’s garden better than ever. Photo by Pixabay

Leaves have fallen everywhere, but what do I do with them all? There are a couple things you can do with your fallen leaves instead of just bagging them up and sending them to the landfill.

Autumn leaves are actually a great mulch to add to your landscape beds and they can play an important role in your compost pile. Mulched leaves increase the organic matter in your soil. You need that organic matter to grow healthy shrubs and perennials.

Leaf Mulch

To make leaf mulch, you first need to shred the leaves. Full size leaves aren’t the best idea for making mulch. Instead of spending money on a shredder, you can do it easily with your lawnmower.

Let the leaves dry out, spread them on your driveway and push or drive your lawnmower over them. Be sure the blade is up!

The weight of the lawn mower helps tear the leaves into small pieces. It’s very important to be sure that the leaves are dry. This won’t work well on wet leaves.

After you’ve shredded your leaves, mix them into and on top of the soil. They’ll eventually break down and add important nutrients and organic matter to the soil.

If you have a home compost pile, you usually need more carbon than nitrogen. It can be hard to get enough carbon in your garden but fall provides us with plenty of it. The dead, dried leaves that fall in autumn are a great source of carbon. Use fallen leaves to produce some nutrient-rich compost for your landscape beds and vegetable gardens.

These alternatives will help the environment by keeping your leaves out of the landfill while helping your landscape and garden thrive.

For more gardening tips, visit the UGA Extension in DeKalb County website.

Sarah E. Brodd is a Natural Resource Agent for UGA Extension in DeKalb County.