But leaves can benefit your garden. This week, I’m going to give you some ideas on what to do with all those leaves.
From a gardener’s perspective, fall leaves hold a bounty of opportunities. If you haven’t finished mowing yet for this season, do one final cut, making sure you mow the leaves under the trees and in the yard well. This may mean running over them several times. Then gather them up and use them as winter mulch in your garden. They will decompose over the course of the winter and make great compost for your garden next spring.
Leaves are a great addition to compost bins, along with straw and pine needles and are almost always an ingredient that is listed in recipes for small batch compost.
Use your leaves to make a pathway in between vegetable garden rows, or throughout your flower gardens. They will provide a dry, mud-free surface on which to walk, and in spring will be easy to rake into your flower beds, vegetable garden or other planting areas.
Leaves provide winter cover for beneficial insects like lacewings and beetles. Make your garden attractive to them by providing small areas of leaves in which they can hide and overwinter. However, these same areas of leaves can also be areas that harbor bacteria and undesirable pests, so be sure to check them often. A better way to provide a place for them to live is to make an envelope of chicken wire, fill it with leaves and hang it in a sheltered spot. Spray paint in bright colors, and you’ve also added garden art to your winter landscape!
If you have a mulcher, now is the time to start using it. Gather leaves and run them through the mulcher to cut the pile down to size. Use the mulch in your garden, on walkways, or in your compost bin or pile. If you have too much, offer to share your bounty with your neighbors. Mulchers and chipper/shredders are a relatively inexpensive way to recycle leaves, fallen branches and twigs. If you don’t have a mulcher, check around – chances are someone you know has one you can borrow, or you can rent one a local shop. Once you have your leaves raked and gathered up, it won’t take long to do the job.
If you are creative, leaves can provide a wealth of opportunities. Take old clothing, stuff full of leaves and set a scarecrow in a chair by your front door to add to your festive fall decorations. Use the prettiest leaves, small branches containing nuts, acorns or berries to decorate a tabletop or mantle in your home. Make a centerpiece and decorate with brightly colored maple or oak leaves. You can even make place cards or favors for a party by using writing on still-supple leaves with a Sharpie marker.
Collect leaves that are especially bright or colorful and press them between sheets of waxed paper. You can layer them, then put them under a heavy book to press dry. These can then be mounted on foam core and framed to enjoy throughout the season. Or cut the center out of a paper plate, very lightly press the leaves in waxed paper to bond them, then cut the waxed paper to size and tape or glue it to the center of the paper plate to make your own autumn suncatcher.
Make a mobile by tying the stems of pretty leaves onto some string and suspending them from a twig or branch. Dip leaves into a watered down glue solution or use spray glue, then cover in glitter to save for Christmas ornaments or to give as gifts. Use them as a pattern for stencils on construction paper or even to decorate the walls of a room. A tub full of leaves, a couple of markers, some scissors, glue, paint and your imagination is an easy way to fill an afternoon entertaining youngsters.
Of course, the ultimate leaf experience is one that has lasted through the ages. Gather the family and spend the morning raking a huge pile of leaves in the yard, then make a running start and jump! Who doesn’t remember doing this as a kid? The more hands, the more quickly you can re-rake and go again, so include your kids, their friends, your grandkids and even your dog to make lasting, lifelong memories for all of you.
Whether you are a gardener or a craftsperson, there are many ways to enjoy the abundant leaves this fall, so get out and start raking!
Gail Vanik can be reached at 970-565-8274 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.