Connecticut Garden Journal: Autumn Leaves | Connecticut Public Radio

Connecticut Garden Journal: Autumn Leaves

Nov 10, 2016

When I drive around and see home owners raking and bagging their leaves to remove them from their yard, I think they're missing a big opportunity. 

Leaves from maple, oak, ash, and other deciduous trees are a great resource in the yard and garden. So, instead of raking and removing your leaves, use them.

Here's how.

If you only have a few inches thick layer of leaves on your lawn, mow them.

By running the mower over the leaves, you'll shred them into small pieces that will decompose quickly, adding nutrients to your lawn and the tree roots. Also, leaves may help keep dandelions away.

Research at Michigan State University showed that when a layer of maple or oak leaves was left on the lawn, there were up to 80 percent fewer dandelions the next year, compared to lawns where the leaves were raked off.

However, if you have a thick layer of leaves on the lawn, it will kill the grass over winter. So rake or bag some of these leaves into a leaf pile to decompose.

It's called leaf mold.

Simply put a chicken wire cage around the pile, and leave it. In a year or two, the leaves will break down into usable compost without any work.

Leaves are a great mulch. Shred leaves with a mower, then use them to cover garlic, strawberries, and over-wintering carrots.

If the leaves are shredded, they won't mat down and rot those plants in winter. You can even mulch around perennial flowers to insulate the soil in winter. So leave the leaves, and your garden will be better off.

Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about shittake mushrooms. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.