It’s that time of year again when the leaves change colors and drop from the trees covering our lawns. While your first instinct may be to reach for your rake and a few waste bags, you may want to reconsider simply tossing it all out.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency reported that 35.4 million tons of yard trimmings were sent to landfills in 2018 alone. Rather than contributing more waste to our land, why not put your yard waste to work in a fun and creative way?
I have put together a list of 10 things to do with fall leaves in your yard or home, helping you save money, improve your landscaping and have fun with the whole family!
Mulch Your Perennial Garden Beds
With the winter weather ahead, you may be planning the best way to prepare your perennial flower garden to survive the colder temperatures. Rather than paying for winter mulch at your local garden center, why not add a layer of leaves to your garden bed? Unlike other organic matter, leaves don’t have to be composted before placing them around your flowers. Just be sure to leave a little space directly around the stems of your plants to avoid crown rot. They work as a great insulator for temperature-sensitive plants, helping ensure that your garden will return bright and colorful next spring.
Use Them for Insulation in Your Garden Shed
The insulation power of leaves doesn’t have to be reserved for your outdoor garden spaces. If you are lucky enough to have lots of leaves to work with, you could insulate a garden shed or outdoor workshop space. Rake and collect your leaves in bags. These bags can then be stacked in your garden shed against the walls, giving them an added layer of protection from the bitter cold. You can use this insulated space to protect tender plants or those more susceptible to cold in their pots. You can also use it to safely store your outdoor tools without worrying about the impact cold may have on them during the winter months.
Stuff A Scarecrow
If you are searching for a way to discourage backyard birds from snacking on your plants during the autumn months, why not use your fall leaves to stuff a scarecrow? You can stick to the simple design or get creative and use your new scarecrow to add to your fall décor. It’s a fun activity that can get the whole family involved as the kids help you choose the best old clothes to dress their scarecrow or give it a fun, unique face. No garden? Create a scarecrow or two that you can use for seasonal decorations on the front porch or in your front yard. When the season is over, and your scarecrow is ready to retire, you will be left with a pile of leaves that can be thrown in the compost heap or used for another purpose.
Use Them to Store Root Vegetables
Vegetable gardeners, did you know that you can use dry leaves to store your root vegetables during the cold winter months? Just as leaves work to insulate your perennial garden or vegetable garden itself, they can also offer insulation for your cold-hardy vegetables and root vegetables while stored in your basement, garage, or root cellar. Make sure that you give the leaves time to dry fully before use as soggy, wet leaves can lead to mold and rot.
Create Compost at Home
Compost plays a very important role in gardening, allowing you to provide additional nutrients to improve the health of your plants. It is especially important if you’re working in an area with poor soil quality. Create a leaf pile and move it to a designated compost area. Add additional organic matter to this pile, such as grass clippings, kitchen compost, and other yard waste. You may want to create a type of fencing or structure around the compost heap to avoid anything blowing away.
Allow your compost piles to sit throughout the winter months, turning it occasionally. If you live in a dry or warmer climate, you may notice your compost starting to dry out. If so, spray it with your garden hose before turning it to add some additional moisture. You will have moisture-rich compost ready for use with the arrival of spring.
Make ‘Leaf Mold’
Another great alternative to compost (with less work involved) is leaf mold. Like with compost, you need to rake and gather your leaves into a large pile. However, this solution allows you to skip the work involved with turning compost. Instead, you let fungi take over the pile, breaking the leaves down into a dark-colored soil conditioner. Using shredded leaves can speed up the process, but it’s not necessary. Leaf mold is high in both calcium and magnesium, helping you create healthy soil for your garden. It is also known for its ability to retain water creating a moist soil environment.
Get Crafting with the Kids
Make use of your brightly colored fall leaves to keep the kids entertained during the coming cold weather by planning some fun fall crafting. You can do many different crafts with leaves with options for all ages. Some examples include decorating concrete steppingstones with leaves and rocks, creating leaf prints, or seasonal décors such as candle holders made from glass jars and leaves attached with white glue or mod podge and leaf garland.
Unsure of what craft you want to try? Put out a selection of different craft supplies and give your children free rein. You may be surprised by what their imagination can come up with!
Mulch Your Lawn
In addition to using your fall leaves to mulch your gardens and flower beds, you can also use these leaves to mulch your lawn. Not only will this help to protect your grass and retain moisture in the soil throughout the winter months, but the leaves will also act as a natural fertilizer as they slowly break down, adding nutrients and promoting healthy, green grass. The best part? It’s arguably the easiest option on the list to carry out. Simply mow your lawn, as usual, allowing your lawnmower to shred and distribute the leaves across the lawn. No need for raking or gathering your leaves.
Decorate for the Fall Season
Are you a fall lover? If this is ‘your season, why not embrace the colorful autumn leaves as part of your fall décor? Leaves can be used to add a seasonal touch to your home in many ways. Fill a vase or glass bowl with leaves, allowing their colors to be seen through the clear glass, sprinkle leaves on an accent table around some candles or other seasonal pieces to complete the final look. In addition to these obvious uses, you can also use your backyard leaves to stuff some seasonal decorations such as plastic bags designed to look like Jack-o-Lanterns, ghosts, or spiders when they are full. Use your imagination and make it your own.
Create A Fall Playground
While this option isn’t a permanent solution for your leaves, it’s a great opportunity before pulling out your lawnmowers or creating protective mulch. After all, what is the fall season without playing in the piles of leaves with your children and the family dog? Leaf cleanup can be fun! Rake your leaves into piles around your yard to create a playground or create one giant pile that the whole family can dive into. When you’re finished, the leaves are ready to be used for winter mulch or added to the compost bins.
Put Your Leaves to Work This Fall Season
While fall leaves are often seen as beautiful when they grace the trees around us, that opinion changes quickly when they fall and cover our otherwise well-maintained lawns. However, we don’t have to see them as a nuisance. Each of the suggestions included on this list allows you to make your fall leaves work for you. Embrace enough of them, and you may even find yourself looking forward to this part of the fall season.
Do you have unique ideas of things to do with fall leaves that I failed to mention? Feel free to share your suggestions in the comments!