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How to Get Free Fertilizer from Fallen Leaves

How to Get Free Fertilizer From Fallen Leaves

We Don’t Call It Fall for Nothing

Autumn is a magical time of year—leaves turn from green to vivid oranges, reds and yellows. Then, they turn brown, fall out of trees and end up all over my yard. So if you’re like me and have lots of fallen leaves accumulating in your yard, don’t just rake them up and toss them out. Put them to good use!

Leaves are like a giant pile of nutrient-rich, organic fertilizer just lying around your yard. You would actually pay money for them if they were all bagged up and sold at a store. So collect those leaves and compost them, and voilà—you have a valuable, and all-natural, soil enrichment component.

Leaves into MulchMake Your Own Mulch

Making MulchRun your mower back and forth through a layer of leaves to break them up, then add it to your perennial garden. One note of caution—shredded leaves will blow around in a windy fall. It’s a good idea to hose them down when you first spread them around your yard or garden. It won’t take long for them to stay in place on their own.

Snug as a Bug in a RefugiumSnug as a Bug in a Refugium

Insects I love to have around in my garden, like lacewings and ground beetles, need fallen leaves to provide them cover or protection for overwintering. So why not build them a refugium? They are easy to make and, depending how creative you are, can double as unique garden art. All you need is some chicken wire from the hardware store. Shape and twist it into envelope-style pockets or other fun shapes. Fill them with fallen leaves and sticks, then place them in a sheltered location. Then the good little insects will stay safe and warm all winter long.

Some Other UsesSome Other Uses

kids playing in leavesPile leaves between the rows of your vegetable garden beds, creating a little path. They’ll provide a dry walking surface, and next spring you can rake the decomposed leaves into your planting areas.

You can also add fallen leaves to your composting bins. They introduce key decomposers, such as springtails and microbes, making it a rich fertilizer.

A Few Things Just for Fun:

Kids Leaf Rubbings

  1. Want your kids to help out? Have them rake the leaves into a big pile and take turns jumping in it.
  2. Collect leaves and iron them between sheets of waxed paper. Your kids can use them to create seasonal and silly art that can be enjoyed year-round.
  3. Use attractive fall leaves, unshelled nuts, branches with berries, and other fall garden treasures to make festive dining table centerpieces and more for the holidays.

leaf collection and disposalDoes your town offer leaf collection and disposal?

Proper removal of leaves not only helps keep streets clean and reduces flooding caused when leaves clog storm drains, it also reduces waste going into landfills. More and more cities now have curbside collection or will accept leaves dropped off in biodegradable paper bags. Hillsboro, Oregon even pairs a food drive with their leaf disposal drop-off days.

comment_2Excited to gather those wonderful, versatile autumn leaves? Share some of the ways you have used fallen leaves in the comments below.


Would you offer to rake your neighbors’ leaves just so you could keep them for yourself?

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Amy Hepfner
Amy Hepfner
4 years ago

When I was young and still living with my parents, our neighbor would rake every single leaf up in his yard. He had a huge beautiful maple tree that would provide shade for his house, yard and the neighbors yard and house as well. Sadly after years of raking up every single leaf, the tree died. My father told me that it didn’t have any food because our neighbor raked it all up. That made an impression on me. Now, we never rake our leaves in the fall. We mulch them into the lawn or pile them on our perennial beds. In the spring any leaves that aren’t decomposed, get raked up and put into the garden beds or compost heap.

Angie Scott
Angie Scott
4 years ago

I long for the day when I own a home and can compost as my father did when I was younger! Decomposing leaves give so much back to the earth; it saddens me that people think of them only as “trash that needs removed”. I love to see cities with curbside pickup – at least “ones man’s junk…” becomes the city’s treasure in that situation 😉

Gingi Freeman
Gingi Freeman
4 years ago

We keep our leaves on the ground as long as possible as a natural mulch… then move it to the compost bin in the spring! <3