Advantages of a leaf mulch layer

Last updated on October 24th, 2023 at 06:47 pm

When the leaves fall in autumn, a lot of work awaits gardeners. Once the leaves have been swept up, the question remains: where to put the leaves? There are many options for this, such as the composter or the organic waste garbage can. It is particularly useful to mulch with the leaves. There is little to consider when doing so.

Advantages of a leaf mulch layer

The leaf mulch layer brings with it many advantages:

  • Like any other mulch layer, decaying leaves provide nutrients to the soil.
  • The mulch serves as a natural long-term fertilizer that plants feed off of without you having to apply additional fertilizer.
  • The layer also protects the soil from drying out and winter frosts.
  • In addition, various insects and other small creatures can overwinter under the layer of foliage. In the spring, they provide a natural balance and help our plants thrive.
  • In spring, the foliage suppresses the first weeds, saving you work.
  • Which leaves are suitable for mulching

With a few exceptions, almost any type of foliage is suitable for mulching:

Advantages of a leaf mulch layer

Ideal are the leaves of fruit plants. But also the leaves of the ash, maple and lime are well suited for a mulch layer.
Leaves from the walnut tree, oak, chestnut and beech contain a lot of tannic acid. As a result, they rot quite slowly. Therefore they are only conditionally suitable for mulching. It is best to mix them with the foliage of fruit plants. Alternatively, the leaves can be shredded and mixed with green cuttings.

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Not suitable for mulching are the leaves of diseased trees. Here, the diseases or fungi can get into the soil and later spread to other plants.

Mit großen Blättern kann man auch mulchen

Where to mulch with leaves

In many places the mulch brings benefits, in some it can even harm:

Ideal is the leaf mulch for various beds. Here, the leaves provide the soil with nutrients and additionally protect against frost.
Also with shrubs the foliage serves as winter protection, where the leaves are even heaped on.
If you have wildly overgrown areas in your garden, you can simply leave the leaves lying around. The soil is supplied in a natural way and small creatures find a shelter.

If you want to have an even green on the lawn, you should sweep the leaves there regularly. A mulch layer of leaves harms the grasses, which depend on light even in the cold season. This can create patches on the greenery. These provide surface for undesirable weeds in the new year. If you already have such spots, reseed the corresponding areas in the spring. In this way, a closed sward is formed again.

Mulching garden beds with leaves

When mulching the beds, you should pay attention to a few things, so that they do not suffer any damage:

  • In general, the mulch layer should not only consist of leaves, but should be enriched with green cuttings and kitchen waste. This is especially important with a leaf layer of leaves that contain high levels of tannic acid.
  • To stimulate rotting, a little horn meal can be added.
  • If there are still plants in the bed, make sure that the foliage does not cover the leaves of the plants.
  • After spreading the layer of leaves, support the rotting process with some rainwater, which is spread over the leaves with a shower head.

Mulching shrubs with leaves

For shrubs and bushes, the foliage creates a warming layer that protects the plants from frostbite:

  • Pile the foliage on the ground so that the trunk is also covered.
  • If you add some soil on top, the leaves won’t just fly away again.
  • A few twigs can also keep the leaves in place.
  • Another method is to fence the shrubs with chicken wire and put the foliage in there.
  • Rhodedondrons and other plants that like acidic soil can also be mulched with foliage that is high in tannic acid. The foliage of walnut, oak and co lowers the pH in the soil and is therefore ideal for these plants.
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How long should leave the mulch of leaves.

Mulch from leaves should not be left everywhere forever:

  • On wildly overgrown areas, the leaves remain permanently. It is processed by animals and microbes and rots over time.
  • The layer of leaves in the bed can either be removed or worked into the soil in the spring just before sowing. Raking it in will continue to provide nutrients to the soil.
  • Under shrubs and bushes, the foliage should be removed in the spring. Leaving them here can cause the trunk or roots to not get enough air and begin to rot. Furthermore, moisture develops under them, which can promote mold spores.


What do I do with the leaves in autumn?

There are various ways to dispose of or reuse leaves in the fall:

It can be disposed of on the composter, in the organic waste garbage can, at a composting facility or at the recycling center.

If you want to use the leaves, you can either pile them up for hedgehogs or give the leaves as a mulch layer on beds and under shrubs.

Which leaves are suitable for mulching?

Almost any foliage can be used for mulching:

Leaves from fruit trees, ash, maple and lime, among others, are ideal. These rot relatively quickly and are therefore well suited for the mulch layer.

Other foliage, such as from walnut, chestnut and oak, contain a lot of tannic acid and should therefore only be used as mulch in small quantities and mixed with other garden waste.

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Can leaves be buried?

Leaves can be easily buried in the soil where they serve as a natural fertilizer. However, once the ground is frozen, the leaves should either be left in place or removed. Only in the spring can it serve as a starter fertilizer by being dug under.

Are leaves a good fertilizer?

Foliage is an ideal natural fertilizer. It contains many different nutrients that are gradually released into the soil. Over the winter, you can therefore use the leaves as mulch and work them into the soil in the spring. There it will continue to decompose.

When to remove leaves from the beds?

The leaves can remain on the beds over the winter as a mulch layer. There it provides the soil with nutrients, ensures that it does not dry out so quickly and protects the roots from too much cold.

In spring, before the first plants are sown or planted, the foliage can be removed from the bed or buried in the soil.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts. Jones James

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