Using Leaves in the Garden

Falling leaves are a free, local, sustainable source of valuable organic material and trace elements.

Credit: iStock / Effinity Stock Photography

Make your own mulch using fallen leaves in the yard

Falling leaves are a free, local, sustainable source of valuable organic material and trace elements. Here’s how to make your own ecologically correct Leaf Bin. Leaf compost can be part of our own homemade potting soil as well, so we can leave peat in the ecologically sensitive peat bogs where it belongs. You’ll need a large heavy-duty plastic garbage bag, a rake, and something to poke holes:

  1. Poke a dozen holes around the sides and bottom of the garbage bag.
  2. Rake leaves, place them in the bag. Add whenever you are in the mood to rake.
  3. When the bag is nearly full but you can still squeeze the top shut and tie it off, add some water.
  4. Shake the bag vigorously, then tie it with a couple of strong twist ties.

In one year or less, the leaves will transform themselves into beautiful, usable free mulch. Try some on lily of the valley – they sometimes stop blooming if you use manure or regular compost, but thrive on leaf compost.

  • Use leaves to half-fill (or more) large containers in which you’ll plant bulbs, evergreens, etc. Use lots of leaves, and pack tightly. You only need about 15 cm (6 in.) of soil for bulbs, more for other plants depending on the size of their rootball. The leaves will very slowly and gradually decompose. Plant the bulbs an inch or two deeper than you would in the ground.
  • Even smaller containers can have a few inches of deciduous leaves in the bottom, especially if you’re planting bulbs. Fig leaves, for example. This is a fantastic thing to do with kids – lots to talk about re: mother nature while you ask them to help you. Children love to cut things – dullish scissors work fine with leaves.
  • Create an impromptu spring display in problematic rocky or tree-rooty areas: Simply pile on a thick layer of leaves, top with SeaSoil or topsoil, add bonemeal (optional) and lay bulbs in drifts. Cover with more leaves and a few more inches of soil. Firm soil, water well.
  • Keep a pile or bag of leaves near your compost so you can layer with kitchen waste
  • Layer leaves atop perennial beds for insulation, making a leaf “duvet” for garden beds.
  • Top-dress tender, recently-planted herbs like rosemary and lavender with a covering of leaves if very cold weather is expected.