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October 19, 2012

Gardening with Autumn Leaves

What should you do with the leaves that fall in your yard?

Autumn leaves are a huge gift to gardeners. With minimal effort, they can be used to feed plants, build the soil, protect against disease, shelter tender perennials, and control weeds. And they're free!

What's important is shredding them. Left whole, they'll mat together, preventing oxygen and bacteria from penetrating the layers. The easiest way to shred them is to simply run over them with the lawn mower a few times. This is particularly handy if it's the lawn you want to feed; just mow them into bits and leave them.

Or, if you have a leaf blower, forget the "blowing" part and turn it to "vacuum." Your leaves will be nicely shredded, and contained too.

Once they're shredded you can:
  • Feed the soil - cover garden beds with a 3- to 4-inch layer of shredded leaves, or turn them under with a tiller.
  • Compost them - Leaf mold is a horticultural mainstay that can even be used to replace peat in potting soil mixes. Whether you're composting them alone or adding them to an existing pile, be sure to soak them down.
  • Use as mulch - Tuck a 4- to 6-inch layer around perennials for winter protection.

This is a beautiful time of year. Make the most of what nature has to offer you.

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