Many adults today have childhood memories of raking leaves and playing in the leaf piles. Some parents today pass on that tradition and let their kids enjoy the leaves before bagging them. Did you know there are other ways to use those leaves? Instead of bagging them for pickup this year, consider some greener alternatives. This guide will give you a few good ideas. You can still let your kids play in the leaves first.
What Can You Do With Fallen Leaves?
Where do fallen leaves go? If you bag them, they may go to a landfill. In some areas, there are green waste disposal bins for them. They are then taken to a green waste area. If you leave them on the ground instead, they eventually break down. However, it is not advisable to let fallen leaves remain on the lawn all winter. They can trap moisture and encourage harmful fungus growth. Also, they can inhibit spring growth. Because raking and bagging leaves is such a common tradition, many people simply continue it without much thought. If you are looking for ways to reduce waste, these are some leaf disposal alternatives for you.
Option 1: Create a DIY Compost Bin
Composting is recycling organic matter to fertilize or enrich soil. You can use food scraps, leaves and other natural products. For example, some people also use spent coffee grounds. Skins from potatoes, fruits and other foods are also used. One key is to create a nitrogen-rich compost pile. How long does it take for leaves to decompose? They may decompose on their own within six to 12 months. This is because they lack ample nitrogen to speed up composting. A compost bin is a container that you use to keep your compost.
How to Create a Compost Bin
There are more than 15 ways to create a DIY compost bin. You may already have an ideal container in your garage or shed. You can follow easy DIY guides that show specific plans and steps to create simple compost bins. These are a few examples:
- Build a compost bin from old pallet wood.
- Turn an old trash can into a compost bin.
- Repurpose an old bucket to use as a small bin.
- Use wire fencing to create a larger compost bin.
- Repurpose an old tote to use as a small compost bin.
If you prefer something more professional, you can find high-quality garden composters. You may be wondering how to create compost and how to compost leaves. Make sure to maintain a good mix of organic materials. Remember that nitrogen is key for breaking down organic material. Some nitrogen-rich materials to use include grass clippings, fruit scraps, vegetable scraps, and plant clippings. After you rake leaves, put them in the compost bin. Top them with nitrogen-rich matter, and turn the compost once every couple of weeks. Turning is important to incorporate oxygen and speed up composting.
Option 2: Create Mulch to Protect Your Soil, Grass, and Plants
Can you use fallen leaves as mulch? You absolutely can. You may be wondering if this idea is contradictory to the introduction of this section. It is not. Although letting whole leaves sit in bulky piles can promote fungus, mulch is safer. When leaves are mulched and used correctly, they can be beneficial. Mulching limits the surface for decomposition. As the leaves decompose, they provide nutrients for helpful worms and microbes that promote healthier grass.
How to Mulch Leaves Into Your Grass to Feed It
If you are wondering how to turn leaves into mulch, there is a simple solution. Mowing is the easiest way. Simply mow over the leaves. If you have a mower with a mulching function, that is ideal. If not, you may need to go over the leaves a few times. When the mulched leaves mix with grass clippings, they compost quicker because of the nitrogen from the clippings.
How to Protect Plants With Leaf Mulch During the Winter
Mulched leaves can help feed the soil around a plant. Do you know how to cover plants for frost protection? You can use mulched leaves to place around plants. Put a few inches of mulch around plants to help prevent frost-related damage. However, you must be careful not to let mulch pile up too thick around plants. Rake or collect the mulched leaves, and top-dress shrubs, perennials or trees with them. You can also do this with late-season vegetable plants. Be sure to remove the mulch at the beginning of the growing season.
Option 3: Burning Leaves
Burning fallen leaves is another option. Leaf burning reduces plastic bag use and landfill waste. However, do not burn leaves if it is prohibited in your area.
How to Safely Burn Leaves
Be sure to check with your nearest fire department before you attempt this. Burning leaves can go wrong and quickly lead to disaster without the right steps. Use a designated burn barrel, and stay by the barrel at all times. These are some important safety tips:
- Do not burn leaves on a windy day.
- Piles in burn barrels should be no more than 48 inches high and wide.
- Keep a hose and a shovel nearby.
- Make sure the area around the burn barrel is free of vegetation and flammable materials.
Option 4: Use Leaves for Soil Amendment
Are you wondering what to do with dead leaves after following the previous tips? If you still have dead leaves, you can add them to your garden. Mulch them with a mower using the directions provided earlier. Take the shredded leaf bits to your garden to mix in with the soil. In the spring, your garden soil will have more nutrients. You may notice more earthworms, and the leaves will promote beneficial microbe growth.
Option 5: Make Some Fall Decor Art
This is one of the most fun uses for leaves. There are plenty of crafts that call for fall leaves. You can search social media pages or groups to find ideas. Search for fall decor ideas, and you will see that the list of possibilities is long. These are a few ideas to get you started:
- Create imprints on paper by putting paint on leaves to apply to it.
- Glue the leaves onto paper to create a design.
- Make a leaf mandala.
- Use the leaves with wreath supplies to make a fall wreath.
- Make leaf pendants or prints using clay.
- Trace leaf outlines onto cloth napkins to decorate for fall dining accessories.
- Make a leaf bunting with an autumn theme.
- Use plastic pieces or blank suncatcher frames to put leaves in for festive fall suncatchers.
- Use them to make fall or Thanksgiving greeting cards.
- Scatter leaves on tables around fall decor for a festive touch.
- String them on yarn or twine to create a DIY leaf garland.
You may wonder what to do with leftover leaves and stems after your crafts are done. If you have a lot, you can mulch them or start a compost bin.
Now that you know what to do with fallen leaves, you can get started. Find all the lawn care accessories you need to tackle fall leaf projects at your nearest True Value store.