- Add nutrients, including phosphorous and potassium
- Increase the soil’s microbial life
- Boost its water-holding capacity
- Improve its structure, known as tilth
And did I mention that leaves are free? It takes little effort on your part to get them working for you, so instead of sweeping them to the curb, here are five ways to use leaves in your garden.
1. Mow them into the lawn.
2. Add them to vegetable beds.
Don’t have a shredder? A garbage can and a string trimmer will work. Use a 55-gallon garbage can. Fill it three-quarters of the way with leaves. Put the string trimmer in, turn it on and move it through the layers of leaves. Be sure to wear eye and ear protection.
3. Make leaf mold.
4. Mix leaves — shredded or not — into a compost pile now, where they’ll break down over winter.
5. Protect outdoor potted plants.
If the area is windy, corral the pots with chicken wire so the leaves won’t blow away. Pile the leaves inches deep, covering the pot and as much of the plant as possible. Under this insulating blanket, both plants and pots should come through the winter just fine. With this method, even terra-cotta pots can stay outdoors, as long as water can’t get into them and freeze.