Saving and Mulching Autumn Leaves

Posted By on December 11, 2012

It often pains me to think about how much money people spend on mulch and fertilizer every year when they really don’t need to spend anything. Then on top of that, they actually throw away a perfectly fine, free mulch/fertilizer that is given to them each year in the form of fallen leaves. How ridiculous is it to see these bags or piles of leaves sitting out on the curb like so much garbage? They are nature’s golden mulch and fertilizer, all in one!

Deep Roots

The reason that I call them golden mulch and fertilizer is because of the nutritional value and the ground cover capabilities that dead leaves provide. If you think about it, trees really are a core part of the nutrition cycle because they are the only living creatures that can readily suck nutrients from dozens of feet underground. They then store many of these nutrients (the ones they don’t use) in their leaves. These leaves in turn fall to the earth where they decompose, adding all these nutrients to the topsoil. It’s one giant circle of nutrients. Why not capitalize on that and take some of those leaves for your own use?

This is exactly what I have begun doing. This is the first year that I saved a bunch of leaves, however, I have mulched with them for two years. Last year, I spread shredded leaves all over my garden, and I could not believe the different that it made in the first few inches of soil. What once was hard and full of clay was now loamy and darker in color. The leaves broke up the clay and added many nutrients to the soil. I didn’t spend a dime to do this.

This year, on top of spreading leaves all around my raised beds and in my fruit garden, I ended up saving 14 large garbage bags full of leaves and have them stored in one of my sheds.

Bags of Leaves

Bags of Leaves

Why would I do this?

Because they can be used as compost material/fertilizer and mulch in the coming spring/summer. And they are free.

Weed Control

As I documented, this past couple of years we have had big time weed problems. Last spring, I had a bunch of leaves left on my garden from when I mulched the previous fall. However, I made a collosol mistake in that I removed the leaves. Not only would they have continued acting as a slow release fertilizer for my garden, they would have acted as a barrier to growing weeds. I am not really sure what I was thinking, but I realized my mistake about half way through the summer.

This coming year, I am planning to not only leave all those mulched leaves on my garden, I will be adding more (from my garbage bags) as they break down, so as to keep the weeds down.

Moisture/Temperature Control

Mulching with leaves also will give you great moisture and temperature control. Everyone has heard of mulching for these purposes, so it should come as no surprise that you can accomplish the same thing with shredded leaves.

Protection In the Winter

This is a very important part of preparing your garden for winter. Putting down a mulch of leaves will help to protect your garden from cold temperatures and erosion. The wind will not be able to blow away your top soil if you have it covered by a thick layer of leaf mulch. It will also act as an insulator, keeping your soil warmer.

Raised Beds with Leaf Mulch

Raised Beds with Leaf Mulch


This is another great thing about saving leaves. Not only can you compost a bunch in the fall for next year, you can use what you save as compost material down the road. If you are running low on some brown material and have excess green material, throw in some of your saved leaves from last year.

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