Why Autumn Leaves Are Unbeatable as Mulch

Trees and shrubs give us a valuable raw material in autumn: their leaves! Instead of disposing of it, use it as mulch in suitable places.

Why Autumn Leaves Are Unbeatable as Mulch
You should remove autumn leaves from lawns and sidewalks. Everywhere else it can be left lying around or serve as a valuable mulch layer in the bed

Only on lawns and sidewalks leaves should not be left lying around: It threatens rotting of the grasses or increases the risk of slipping. However, the leaves collected from these areas should not end up in the organic waste garbage can, but under shrubs and hedges, on herbaceous borders and vegetable beds.

Autumn leaves are ideal for mulching perennial and vegetable beds. This layer not only protects the plants from frost and the soil from drying out, but is also a natural fertilizer. This is because thousands and thousands of soil organisms such as earthworms, millipedes and springtails eat the leaves. Microorganisms further decompose their droppings into humus, making the nutrients contained in the leaves available to plants again the next season.

Natural food for birds & co.

The mulch layer is also home to numerous predatory creatures, e.g. ground beetles, spiders, lizards and toads, which spend the winter protected here. But birds also benefit from the richness of species in the autumn leaves: the numerous insects serve as food for blackbirds, starlings, robins and wrens, for example. Shrews do not hibernate and are therefore dependent on a constant supply of food. And they find this in particular abundance in a mulch layer of leaves.
a mulch layer of leaves. Thus, the fallen leaves are a valuable habitat in their own right!

Why Autumn Leaves Are Unbeatable as Mulch
The robin and many other songbirds depend on insects, especially in winter. There is plenty of food for them in the leaf litter

How long does the foliage take to decompose?

The rate of transformation of foliage into humus depends on various factors, including which leaves are involved. Foliage from fruit trees, ash, alder, birch or linden decomposes quite quickly, whereas oak, sycamore and beech leaves take much longer.

Humidity and temperature also play a significant role in the decomposition process. If it is too dry, the soil organisms are inhibited in their activity, but if it is too moist, the oxygen content in the leaf layer is reduced. Animals, bacteria and fungi responsible for decomposing organic matter, however, depend on oxygen, its lack leads to the death of the same and the leaves rot.
The warmer it is, the faster the decomposition process occurs. For most soil organisms, a temperature between 25 and 30 °C is ideal. The rate of decomposition is therefore very high in the tropics, while it is considerably lower in our latitudes, and organic material decomposes particularly slowly in the high mountains.

The pH value must also be right. Most microorganisms cannot survive in a very acidic environment.