The trees and shrubs are now shedding more and more leaves. In some gardens so much that garden owners simply dispose of the leaves with the household waste due to lack of space. But it’s actually much too good for that. Here’s how you can put it to good use.
Autumn is a very beautiful time of year: the trees glow in bright colors and you can enjoy the last warm days of the year in the garden. If only it weren’t for all the leaves that fall to the ground in masses after the first cold nights and drive many gardeners almost to despair. But there are plenty of ways to put the leaves to good use, even in small gardens.
Leaf mulch is good for plants
The foliage is well suited as a mulch for all plants that have their natural habitat in the forest or at the edge of the forest. They really flourish with a mulch layer of leaves, because this corresponds to your living conditions in the natural habitat. The leaves decompose in the course of the new garden season and enrich the soil with humus. Useful plants such as raspberries or strawberries also originate from the forest and react positively to a covering of leaves in the root area.
Leaf storage from wire mesh
Are the beds already covered with leaves and all compost bins full? Then simply buy a few meters of wire mesh from the roll at the hardware store and connect the beginning and end with a piece of wire. This creates spacious wire baskets with little effort, which are placed in the garden and serve as leaf storage. Due to the weight and slow rotting, the filling slowly sags, so that soon after the first filling there is room for new leaves again.
Use autumn leaves as winter protection
Many plants do not cope well with the cold temperatures and wet weather of winter. But with a little autumn foliage, you can wonderfully shield plants in the bed from the bad winter weather. To do this, spread the leaves generously in the bed, similar to a layer of mulch, and mound them a bit on the stem. Due to the many small air spaces between the leaves, the layer of foliage acts as a natural insulation and thus protects the plant from frost and frostbite. Rain is also kept out by the layer of foliage: Like a roof with shingles, water flows from the inside to the outside and only seeps into the ground at the edge of the leaf layer, so the plant is also protected from too much moisture. But not only plants in the bed but also potted plants can benefit from foliage, instead of making the tubs frost-proof with Styrofoam or bubble wrap, you can also fill a jute bag with dry foliage leaves and place the pot of the plant inside. Again, the foliage acts as a natural insulator and ensures that the soil does not freeze through.
Beds from foliage
How do you create a new bed? Most would probably just dig up a patch of lawn, but did you know there is a much gentler way? In fact, you can create a new bed quite easily with a little patience and autumn leaves. To do this, simply mulch the piece of lawn that you want to transform with a thick layer of leaves: the underlying lawn will suffocate, rot and thus form a fertile garden soil, without digging and the associated soil erosion. Of course, the best time to create beds in this way is autumn: Not only is there then enough foliage, but the soil also has time to mature until spring and is perfectly prepared for the first sowing.
As hedgehog hiding places
Hedgehogs are not only really cute, but also very useful: In the garden, they love to eat snails and other insects that otherwise like to go to our vegetable beds. So a hedgehog in the garden is a real helper and gladly seen. Unfortunately, many hedgehogs do not find sleeping quarters, as there are hardly any “wild corners” left in most gardens that offer them shelter. But in a pile of leaves, the prickly animals feel right at home and also have the perfect hiding place for their winter sleep. So if you have a quiet, secluded corner in your garden, leave some leaves lying around – the hedgehogs will thank you. You can find more ways to support hedgehogs in autumn in our special article.
Tips for fast decomposition of autumn leaves.
You can speed up decomposition in the leaf bin by mixing the leaves with some grass clippings and shredded material. The fresh grasses contain a lot of nitrogen, so the microorganisms can propagate well and decompose the nutrient-poor autumn leaves more quickly. If the lawn season is already over, simply use compost accelerator. The shredded material ensures good aeration of the mixture, which also promotes composting.
Soil improvement with leaf mould
Depending on the temperature, it takes about a year for the fall leaves in the collection bin to become leaf compost. Although the humus contains hardly any nutrients, it is excellent for soil improvement for all plants that need a loose, humus-rich subsoil. You can also mound your bedding roses with the leaf compost to protect them from frost damage in winter.
Oak leaves for rhododendrons
While the leaves of hornbeam and linden rot very quickly, oak foliage takes quite a long time because of its high tannic acid content. It is best to use the fresh foliage as mulch in the rhododendron bed. The foliage releases acid as it rots, lowering the pH of the soil. Ideal for rhododendrons and other garden plants that can’t tolerate high pH levels.