The Surprising Benefit Of Leaves In The Garden – Don’t Throw Them Away!

by Texas Homesteader ~ 

This time of year many are dealing with lots of falling leaves. But don’t send them to the landfill! They can be used to keep your garden soil healthy and suppress weeds.

That all adds up to a healthier garden with less work. What’s not to love??!

I use leaves for mulch instead of raking and bagging them and sending them to the landfill. There are lots of ways the garden benefits. #TexasHomesteader

(Note: Some links in this post will take you to other related articles for further information. But links preceded with * are affiliate links. If you click and buy something I could receive a tiny commission.)

Don’t Bag It! Benefits Of Using Fallen Leaves:

When leaves are stuffed into huge plastic bags & sent to a landfill, a valuable resource is wasted.

Use fallen as natural mulch or soil amendment for FREE! #TexasHomesteader

Here are several benefits to reusing leaves after they fall from the tree. 

Leaves On The Ground – Natural Habitat

We have lots of trees here on the homestead. But I don’t rake up our leaves just to tidy our property.

Leaves from trees can be raked up and used for natural soil amendment and mulch. #TexasHomesteader

I feel it’s important to the ecosystem to allow some leaves to stay where they are. Many tiny lifeforms rely on that leafy ground covering.

But if you need to remove leaves from your yard, instead of sending them off to the landfill you can use them in your garden. (or offer to a gardening friend)

Benefits Of Leaves In The Garden

Leaves can solve a few garden challenges. Our summers are typically hot and dry. I need to give my garden plants every opportunity to thrive. 

Vegetable garden in NE Texas. #TexasHomesteader

Leaves offer many benefits in the garden, including

Free Mulch

Cooler summertime soil temps

Better moisture retention

Less weeding

Healthier plants

So my veggie garden is always mulched in some way. I prefer to use leaves as mulch.

Leaves For Mulch In The Garden Add Nutrients To Soil

According to Texas A&M University, fallen leaves contain 50% – 80% of the nutrients that the tree had taken up from the ground. 

I use leaves for mulch instead of raking and bagging them and sending them to the landfill. There are lots of ways the garden benefits. #TexasHomesteader

I place whole leaves on top of the soil in the garden as mulch. But I also use broken-down leaves to amend the soil.

Both uses benefit my garden plants.

How Long Does It Take Leaves To Break Down?

Leaves break down at different rates. Thinner Maple leaves break down more quickly than thicker Live Oak leaves.

Thicker Leaves For Mulch: Thicker leaves take close to a year to break down. So I’ll reserve the smaller thicker harvested leaves for mulching around my actual veggie plants. 

Leaf Mold For Soil Amendment: When light-weight leaves are broken down 6-months or so they turn into leaf mold. I mix leaf mold into the top of my garden soil to give the soil a fluffier texture plus a nutrient boost for healthy plant growth.

How To Break Leaves Down More Quickly

If leaves are chopped they’re ready to use more quickly – typically in just 3-6 months. 

So you can speed leaves breaking down by crushing or chopping them when they’re harvested. There are many simple methods for crushing leaves.

Easy Methods For Crushing Leaves

Low-Tech – I rake leaves into a pile & transfer them into huge buckets. Then I step inside the bucket and stomp around like I’m stomping grapes. This works best with finer, thinner leaves such as maple.

Lawn Mower With Bag – A mulching mower with a bagger makes chopping leaves simple – just mow over them. The mower will crush the leaves & the bagger will make it easy to capture/transfer them.

Leaf Chopper – Some people have a *Leaf Chopper to chop the leaves quickly.

Making Natural Leaf Mold Soil Amendment

I sometimes just place chopped leaves right on top of my planting areas to begin degrading. 

But other times I make leaf mold by chunking them into one of my four *Tumbling Composters

My compost tumbler is enclosed to protect the contents from rodents. And it makes that gardening black gold compost too. #TexasHomesteader

Leaves break down over the fall & winter. Then next spring I’ll mix the degraded leaf mold lightly into the top of my garden planting soil. 

My garden will LOVE them next spring! It makes good use of a FREE resource – leaves. Who knew they could be so beneficial?

Other Natural Material Garden Mulching Options

When I have no leaves available there are other ways of mulching the garden.

Spent Hay – Sometimes I use spent hay from the hay ring. I layer it thickly around the plants, keeping it from directly touching the stem of the plants.

Hay can be used for mulch as long as you know it hasn't been sprayed. I use leaves for mulch instead of raking and bagging them and sending them to the landfill. There are lots of ways the garden benefits. #TexasHomesteader

I always first make sure the hay wasn’t sprayed with an herbicide before it was baled.

There is the possibility that hay seeds will try to sprout in my garden. But I’ve found that if my mulch is thick enough any sprouting weeds are easily pulled. 

Grass Clippings – Sometimes I’ll use cut grass from the lawn-mower bag. Careful – Using freshly-cut grass can burn your plants. So I allow it to turn completely brown and cool to the touch before adding it to my garden beds. 

Grass clippings make a great mulch, but make sure they're cured first #TexasHomesteader

Living Mulch – Sometimes I purposely plant vining plants and allow them to grow across the ground around other garden plants as living mulch to shade the ground.

Plus living mulch offers me food as well, whether cantaloupe, pumpkin, watermelon, etc.

Living mulch - vining plants growing around other vegetable plants to protect the soil #TexasHomesteader



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