Grow It!, Kath's Gardening Notebook, Learner's Curve
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5 Ways to Make Your Leaves Work for You

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It’s Autumn and temps are lower and the nights getting chilly. Street curbs are filling up with piles of leaves that homeowners have raked or blown to the edge of their yards. In our town leaf trucks will soon make their way to vacuum up this gold. I call it gold because we can use these fallen leaves for compost or fertilizer for our lawns and gardens. And it’s free!

1. Free fertilizer for your lawn
The ash trees in our yard have been naked for two weeks now. Instead of raking them into piles, we run over them with the lawnmower. You might need to make an extra pass with the mower to finely chop the leaves, but you’ll be saving yourself so much time and adding a natural fertilizer to your lawn. The grass clippings combined with the leaves will provide your lawn with nitrogen. They’ll break down over the winter and give you a jump start on nutrients for the spring.

2. Free fertilizer for your vegetable gardens
Cover your vegetable beds and gardens with leaves. We have so many trees in our yard that we don’t even have to rake them up and put them in the gardens. They just fall there. If you’re not that lucky, rake up a pile and dump them onto the beds. Over the winter they will decompose and add much needed nutrients to the soil. Come springtime, turn over the soil and you’re ready to plant.

3. Free compost
Adding dry leaves to a compost bin or pile speeds up the breakdown of everything else already in there. Throw the leaves in there, turn it over a few times, and come summer you’ll have “black gold” to incorporate into your gardens.

4. Free mulch for your flower gardens
Gather some raked up leaves and spread them a couple inches thick around your cleaned out flower beds. No need to chop them up first. Place around your bushes and perennials, stomp on them to keep in place and water thoroughly. This will keep weeds to a minimum and make for a lighter “fluffy” soil come spring, again adding nutrients.

5. Free-Steal your neighbors leaves
We’re kidding here of course, but if you’ve run over and chopped and used up all the leaves in your own yard, ask a neighbor if you can have some of his leaves. Save a couple garbage cans full of dried leaves to add to your compost pile in the spring. Again, free fertilizer.

There you go. Five ways to use nature’s gift. You’ll be a few steps ahead next spring and save yourself a whole lot of time this fall.

Photo credit to Ribbons On My Back

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