Autumn is the season when trees and plants shed their leaves in anticipation of the impending winter months. So, my garden is full of fallen autumn leaves during the season. I don’t feel cleaning up the leaves is a chore at all because autumn is probably the best time of the year to be out in the open. A decent amount of warmth from the summer months is carried over to autumn, which adds to the invigorating smell that percolates these months. The colour palette of autumn is stunning as well, with its reds, yellows and oranges.
Before you get down to the actual business of dealing with the fallen leaves, you need to make a decision. Do you want to put the leaves to use in the garden or do you want to completely get rid of them? You also have the option of using a portion of the leaves and disposing of the remaining leaves. The reason you need to make this decision in advance is that it will help you plan ahead.
You Can Leave Some of the Leaves on the Lawn over the Winter
A shallow layer of leaves on the lawn isn’t necessarily bad. In fact, it has a few benefits. However, if the layer becomes too thick and starts smothering the lawn, then you need to take action. One way of identifying if the layer of leaves is smothering the lawn is to check if the blades of grass are still visible or not. If the blades are completely obscured that means the layer of leaves is too thick.
A shallow leaf litter attracts microbes and earthworms that are good for the overall health of the lawn. In addition to this, the leaves will eventually break down and release carbon, which makes them ideal mulch material.
- Mulch ensures that the soil retains moisture better.
- It improves the fertility of the soil.
- It also reduces weed growth to a certain extent.
- The earthworms ensure that mulch in the form of compost incorporates naturally with the soil.
Remember to shred the leaves using a lawnmower, because otherwise, the leaves won’t break down completely over the winter.
You Can Turn Some of the Leaves into Compost
Alternatively, you can use the leaves to make compost. You will first have to shred the leaves and then add them to the compost pile. In the compost pile alternate between a layer of the shredded leaves and a layer of greens such as vegetable and fruit skins, grass clippings recovered from the lawn mower, weeds that you have dug up, etc.
Once you created this layered pile, leave it as it is for the entire winter. Every once in a while you have to turn over the contents of the pile to aerate them. By the time spring arrives, you will have great compost that you can use in the garden while planting new things. This is especially good if you grow vegetables and fruits in your garden as well.
Note that you could save a couple of bagful of leaves for the spring when you will be making compost next.
How Do You Remove the Leaves You Don’t Want?
Chances are that the volume of the leaf litter will be far greater than what you can put to use. So, you should begin by using the leaves that fall during the first half of autumn to set up the mulch and put to use in your compost pile. Once the second half of autumn kicks in, you will have to start collecting the leaves.
There are a couple of ways in which you can collect and remove the leaves.
Use a Rake
- Rake the leaves into piles around the garden.
- Put them into trash bags for disposal.
- You can run your lawn mower over some of the piles to shred the leaves, which you can store in bags for later use.
- If the leaves are wet, then it’s better to wait for dry weather. Wet leaves have mould and mildew, which triggers allergies in some people. Also, it’s harder to rake wet leaves and then transfer them into trash bags.
Use a Leaf Blower and Garden Vacuum
- Leaf blowers are handy machines to round up the leaves spread all over the lawn and other parts of the garden.
- These are easy-to-use machines and help you save a lot of time.
- Once all the leaves are rounded up, you can use a garden vacuum to simply suck up a bunch of leaves at a time and empty them into trash bags.
- These days most garden vacuums double up as leaf blowers. They cost slightly more than a standalone garden vacuum, but you end up saving some money by buying one equipment rather than two. Plus, it’s more convenient.
- The vacuum can also be used to collect the shredded leaves that you will be storing away for spring.
There are a few things you need to keep in mind at the time of buying the garden vacuum and also while using it.
- Garden vacuums are available with three different power sources — petrol powered, electrical and battery powered. Each has some advantages and disadvantages.
- The petrol-powered vacuums are the most powerful, but you have to go to a filling station once the petrol is over. Or store extra petrol at home.
- The electrical vacuums offer decent power and there’s no need to go anywhere, but you will be limited in terms of movement as it needs to connect to a socket.
- The battery-powered ones are lighter and more portable but offer lower power.
- Irrespective of the type of garden vacuum you opt for, make sure you have ear protection, eye protection and a good pair of working gloves on you while operating it.
Read More: The best garden vacuum and blowers in the UK
Avoid Burning the Leaves at All Cost
I know this is a genuine option and that some people do burn excess leaves, but it’s a complete no-no for me. If you do not plan to use the leaves or store them for spring, then ask your neighbours. They might have some use for it. Or, use social media. That’s what it’s there for. Facebook has several city or town-based groups to put people in touch with each other. Someone in your town will need the leaves. So, please don’t burn them.