Q. Are fallen leaves good for my garden?
Yes, most definitely, using leaves of deciduous trees as an organic amendment and as mulch will greatly add to the health of your garden soil.
Leaf litter is a great source of organic matter, especially when it ages into leaf mold. In the forest, leaves naturally break down, forming dark, rich, humus to enrich the soil around deciduous trees. The best tree leaves for making leaf mold are oak, beech and hornbeam.
To help the leaves break down faster for use in your garden, shred them into smaller pieces. You can do this by running a lawn mower over them if you don't have a power mulcher. Then gather them up, place them into bags, loosely tie the top and then pierce holes in the sides. The leaves need to be moist, so add some water before tying up the bag. It will take about 12-18 months for the leaves to break down.
For larger amounts of leaves, you can also place the shredded leaves in cages made of chicken wire. Leaves can also be added to a compost pile, mixed or layered with grass clippings and other green material.
Leaf mold is great around trees, shrubs and woodland bulbs. Leaf mold as a mulch for garden plants is best used in the summer to conserve moisture around your plants and as a weed control.
Some plants do not like mulch or leaves around them; plants such as lavender like a well-drained soil and don't need the overly moist conditions that mulch provides.
Fallen pine needles are slow to break down, but once decayed are a good source of mulch around acid-loving plants.
For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service