Although fall has officially already begun, here in Camas, Washougal, and Vancouver, Washington, you may not have guessed it based on the weather we’ve been having. However, there is definitely one clear giveaway that fall has started: fallen leaves. Since trees are so abundant here in the Evergreen State, so are the leaves! Here we will discuss the top 3 uses for fall leaves.
Cleaning Up Leaves
Before we can even begin to discuss any uses for fallen leaves, we’ll need to go over the importance of removing (or in most cases, relocating) them.
Leaves on Walkways and Driveways
Leaves can quickly consume entire driveways, pathways, and other walkways, leaving them looking unkempt and disheveled, which can have adverse effects on our property values. Furthermore, leaves in these areas can become hazardous, especially as they become water-logged and frozen. Wet or frozen leaves can cause slipping hazards for both vehicles and people.
Leaves on Decks and Patios
Much like leaves on walkways, leaves left to sit on decks or patios can cause slipping hazards as well. Leaves can more quickly speed up the degradation of these areas as well as cause unsightly stains.
Leaves on Lawns
The most obvious area that leaves often have negative effects on is upon your lawn. Leaves that are left to sit on your lawn can quickly cut off vital nutrients that your lawn needs in order to survive and thrive. Even during the dormant season of lawn growth, grass needs oxygen and light to live. Fallen leaves block light and oxygen from reaching your lawn, which can quickly create dead or brown patches.
Collecting leaves can be a time-consuming venture, but it can save you from costly expenditures that may result from leaving them wherever they may fall. Gathering leaves can be done by hand with a leaf rake, with powered tools such as blowers, or with large machines that “vacuum” up the leaves. Whichever option you choose to collect leaves, once they have all been collected into one area, you can decide what to use them for.
3 Uses for Leaves
Option 1: Composting
One of the most common solutions for fallen leaves is composting. Composted leaves can be used as a valuable soil amendment, as leaves offer some of the best compost. Put all of your leaves into a pile, ideally encased in some type of breathable compost bin. Leaves are considered a “brown” material and should be mixed with another type of compost material (such as grass clippings or food scraps) referred to as a “green” material. Brown material is carbon-rich and green material is nitrogen-rich. The nitrogen-rich material helps the leaves break down. Leave this material in the compost over winter as it breaks down. For best results, shred the leaves as best as possible and turn the compost every few weeks.
Option 2: Mulch
Leaves are a wonderfully natural insulator and mulch. Putting your collected leaves into flower beds can help protect your plants from the extreme temperatures of winter. Furthermore, as the leaves breakdown in these areas, they offer one of the best soil amendments you could find. Again, shredding the leaves before placing them into beds will offer the best outcome. If it is exceptionally dry, it may be a good idea to water the area to ensure that the leaves stay in place instead of being blown back into your yard from the wind.
Option 3: Gardening
As stated above in the mulching section, leaves make a perfect soil amendment. Adding these leaves to your vegetable garden will improve the soil of these areas as well. It will also minimize weed growth as it suppresses the germination of these plants by blocking light and oxygen. You can simply pile leaves into your vegetable garden, or you can compost them (by following the method described above) before adding the composted material to your garden.