In the fall, the ground is littered with dead leaves. Don’t burn them, recycle them! Precious allies of the gardener and totally free, they are a blessing for the garden. Dead leaves are useful and beneficial to the garden and the vegetable garden. Indeed, as they decompose, they bring organic matter that feeds the soil and then the plants. They can be used to cover bare soil, make a beneficial mulch for crops and feed the compost. In the garden, everything is kept and nothing is lost!
Making a plant mulch Mulching with dead leaves is an ideal protection for sensitive plants against cold and frost. Many bulbous and tuberous flowers such as dahlias, hydrangeas, gladioli, tuberous begonias, agapanthus… need a cover in winter. In the vegetable garden, vegetables that spend the winter outside, such as leeks or spinach, also appreciate a good thermal protection. In addition, mulch slows down the growth of weeds. In summer, it keeps the soil cool and reduces watering. Spread a thick carpet of dead leaves about 40 cm thick (don’t skimp on the thickness of the pile!).
You can use whole leaves (not shredded). Do not pack your mulch. The more it is aerated, the less chance there is of rotting due to moisture and the better the insulation. As the leaves decompose, they promote microbial activity and feed earthworms, which then transform this organic matter into nutrients that can be used by plants. Nature is well done!
Covering bare soil Bare soil in winter settles under the effect of repeated rains and becomes less favorable for growing vegetables. In addition, some of the nutrients are washed away. To protect your unoccupied plots, spread a thick layer of unshredded dead leaves (10 to 20 cm). Put a little soil on top to prevent them from flying away.
This layer will limit soil compaction caused by rain. In addition, as it decomposes, it will provide the soil’s fauna with welcome organic matter. The following spring, your soil will be enriched and its structure will be improved. It will be crumbly, fertile, light and will better absorb rainwater. You will then be able to welcome new crops and plantations in optimal conditions. In addition, the layer of leaves will limit the appearance of weeds and can serve as a refuge for insects and small mammals. Enrich your compost If you have a lawn, mow it.
Shredded leaves, mixed with grass clippings, are an excellent addition to the compost. Here’s how to do it: First, place a 20 cm thick layer of shredded dead leaves at the bottom of the composter Then, add a 20 cm layer of green kitchen waste You can also add nettle manure or comfrey leaves, which have a compost-activating effect Put back a new 20 cm layer of leaves, and so on Regularly stir the compost to aerate it and make sure it always remains a little damp.
You can then use it after a year as a soil improver for the vegetable garden, flower beds, trees and shrubs. If you are patient and let this mixture decompose for 18 months, you will obtain a humus! You can also compost naturally, that is to say, pile your dead leaves at the bottom of the garden, cover them with a tarp and wait 2 or 3 years for them to decompose. Aerate and moisten the pile from time to time to stimulate the micro-organisms that work for free for you.
Store them for future use You can store the dead leaves collected in the fall to use them later as mulch or as occasional contributions to the compost. To contain them easily, make a silo with a fine-mesh screen 1 m high, which you roll up.
Tie the ends of the mesh tightly and secure them to the ground with stakes to make a solid container, then fill it with leaves.
What leaves to use?
Most tree and shrub leaves are suitable, provided they are free of disease, fungus and pests. Fungi have the unfortunate tendency to overwinter and spread in the spring. Make sure there are no pests hiding on the underside of the leaves. If they are stained black or covered with a whitish bloom, do not use them. You can burn them to prevent the spread of disease. As a precaution, avoid leaves from rose bushes, fruit trees and vegetable plants that are prone to mildew. Walnut leaves, which contain a strong and harmful tannin, should also be avoided. Finally, do not use leaves that take several years to decompose, such as those from laurel trees, plane trees or privet
How to collect dead leaves?
In autumn, dead leaves must be picked up regularly. Indeed, they can choke your lawn by depriving it of light, clog your gutters and, on rainy days, they represent a slipping hazard on the pavements. On a small area, pick them up by hand. If you have a large area, here’s a tip: Lay a tarp or sheet on the ground Gather the dead leaves in the center of the tarp by pushing them with a leaf rake Fold the four corners of the tarp and carry it to where you want to use the leaves! Miscellaneous (7) Int