Each fall, the shorter and cooler days trigger the end of the growth season. Leaves begin to turn yellow, orange, or red and fall from the trees. While fallen autumn leaves are certainly beautiful, they can quickly become a nuisance as they cover lawns, gardens, and driveways. Instead of bagging up the leaves and sending them to a landfill, consider recycling them. Here’s how to make use of fallen leaves on your property.
Ways to Recycle Leaves
Mulch: Save money by using dry leaves as mulch in your garden. Shred the leaves before layering them over soil, as whole leaves can become wet and smother the plant life below. The easiest way to get shredded leaves is to run over the leaves with a mower. The mix of shredded grass and leaves make mulch that decomposes quickly.
Compost: Improve the soil in your garden and yard with organic compost. Create a bin to hold your compost in your backyard. The University of Illinois recommends creating piles that are a minimum of 3 by 3 by 3 feet to achieve the best composition. Compost should consist of nitrogen-rich green ingredients, such as grass clippings, and carbon-rich brown ingredients, such as dead leaves.
Habitat: There are many good insects, birds and other wildlife critters that can be highly beneficial to soil conditions and plant life. Leaves can act as a refuge for these beneficial creatures. Create small piles of leaves beneath hedges or in the corners of the property to attract beneficial bugs and animals to your garden.
Bulb Bed: Use fallen leaves to create a nutrient-rich bulb bed for spring woodland bulbs. Start by layering topsoil mixed with shredded leaves. Next add a layer of bulbs, such as daffodils, on top of the soil and leaf mixture. Cover the bulbs and layers of leaves with topsoil. Not only do the leaves help create a healthy bulb bed, but they are also great for suppressing weeds.
Leaf Mold: Leaf mold is leaves that have completely dried out. Over a period of 8 to 12 months, the leaves decompose and transform into a crumbly compost-like material. To create leaf mold, simply allow a pile of shredded leaves to sit outside and decompose. Once decomposed, mix the leaves into soil for a boost of nutrients and moisture.
Curbside: Many areas now offer curbside leaf recycling services to residents. These programs give residents the opportunity to place their leaves on the curb to have them picked up for recycling. These accumulated leaves are then used to provide landscapes with an excellent source of nutrients and organic matter.
Education: Use leaf recycling as a learning tool for children. Teach children the different ways to recycle leaves or reuse them for various projects. Introduce kids to leaf rubbings by rubbing the side of a crayon over a leaf on paper to make an impression of the leaf. Leaves also be used to make wall art, holiday wreaths, or used instead of paper to make paper mache bowls.