What to Do with Leaves: An Eco-Friendly Guide

The colors of the fall drift to the ground in beautiful showers of russet oranges and vibrant reds, but we find ourselves wondering what to do with leaves. While a hint of pumpkin spice fills our senses with the promise of thanksgiving and Halloween, our gardens disappear beneath a blanket of a discarded summer. It’s a pretty and colorful sight, but a nightmare for the keen gardener.

Fallen leaves may form a thick layer to strangle the lawn and turn to sludge when the leaves start to decay. Left unchecked, the views from our windows may quickly transform into a scene from a horror movie as the fall transforms our gardens into a grey, sloppy vista. Now you find yourself wondering what to do with leaves.

What to Do with Leaves

If you are a yard person, you may know the potential the fall offers when you consider what to do with leaves. Whether you choose to use a shredder to break down the leaves or use a garden blower to move the leaves into a pile, you still have to do something with the resultant accumulation of waste. So what do you do with leaves?

Fallen leaves make a fantastic mulch for your flower beds and vegetable patches. Furthermore, the nutrient-rich leaves will decompose into a fine leaf mold when incorporated into your compost heap. When you wonder what to do with leaves, the answer is to use them to enrich your garden.

Woman lying back on a pile of fallen leaves

Why Clean up Fallen Leaves?

While many of us consider fall leaves an inconvenient menace in our gardens, they form a fantastic resource for nutrients to benefit our beds and borders. However, if you leave fallen leaves unchecked, they will rob your soil of the essential goodness needed to promote healthy growth.

Also, you have spent much of the summer keeping your lawn alive and maintaining it. If you leave the fallen leaves on your lawn, they will rot down into a thick, unpleasant layer that will kill your grass. Therefore, it remains essential to understand what to do with leaves.

How to Clean up Fallen Leaves

When fall whispers over our gardens, the trees shed the remains of summer across our properties, and while it may look beautiful at first, you may find the prospect of cleaning them up a little daunting.

The humble garden rake

The first thing that may come to mind when you consider what to do with leaves is using a garden rake. A rake is a handheld tool on a long handle ending with long teeth, usually metal, called tines. A garden rake is a useful tool for gathering up fallen leaves and forming them into piles.

However, using a garden rake to clear away a large number of fallen leaves may prove a back-breaking job.

A leaf blower

A leaf blower is a bit like a vacuum cleaner for your garden, except it blows rather than sucks. The device produces a powerful jet of air that enables you to quickly move leaves around your property without a great deal of effort.

When you use a good quality leaf blower, you may move the debris into convenient piles before disposing of them.

Sun Joe SBJ597E 6-Amp 155 MPH Electric Leaf Blower, Green
Buy on Amazon

Use a garden shredder

A domestic garden shredder will chop up most garden waste into manageable chips. Shredding garden waste into smaller pieces makes it easier to remove in a wheelbarrow or bucket.

Purchase a good quality shredder, and it will last you many years and prove a sound investment for your garden.

Sun Joe CJ603E 15-Amp 1.7-Inch Cutting Diameter Electric Silent Wood Chipper/Shredder, green
Buy on Amazon

The leaf mulcher

A leaf mulcher also referred to as a tree mulcher, may help you to shred leaves easily. You can shred ten wheelbarrow loads of leaves down to one small bag when using the device.

However, a leaf mulcher may not necessarily dispose of larger items of garden waste. If the problem consists mainly of leaves, then a leaf mulcher represents a good investment. Otherwise, consider purchasing a more robust garden shredder.

WORX WG430 13 Amp Foldable Bladeless Electric Leaf Mulcher, Red
Buy on Amazon

How to Use Fall Leaves

Once you have gathered up your leaves or shredded them, you may wonder what to do with them. Fall leaves constitute a tremendous amount of solid waste, which takes up a great deal of landfill space. Furthermore, it is a tremendous waste of a natural, organic source of nutrients.

When you wonder what to do with leaves, consider an alternative to landfill disposal. While leaf fall management may prove a nuisance, it is a valuable resource that you can use to your advantage in the garden. Try not to bag it up for disposal in a dump and use it in the garden instead.

Make mulch for your garden

Use a leaf mulcher or a shredder to chop the leaves into small, manageable pieces. Once you have achieved this stage, you may easily transport the shredded pieces around the garden using buckets or wheelbarrows.

Use the mulch in a thick layer around trees and shrubs. The mulch will help to protect the roots and retain moisture in the soil as well as provide nutrition. Furthermore, a layer of mulch around your flower beds will help to suppress weeds and encourage beneficial bugs, like roly polys (isopods), to take up residence in the leaf litter.

The vegetable garden

If you are lucky enough to have a vegetable patch, then you no longer need to worry about what to do with leaves. Dig the debris into the soil of your vegetable patch. As the waste decomposes, it will enrich the soil significantly and give the earth a rich texture perfect for sowing seeds.

When you wonder what to do with leaves, you must consider their use as a soil enhancer. As the leaves break down, they improve the condition of the soil and add vital organic matter, which is ideal for growing vegetables.

Make compost

Rich, organic compost is the mainstay of the garden. Nothing is better for fertilizing the garden and improving the soil.

Consequently, fall leaves offer an essential ingredient for your compost heap. By combining the debris with garden and vegetable waste, you may create a compost that is rich in nutrients to feed your plants.

Grass clippings, fruit, and vegetable scraps, and even eggshells provide the perfect ingredients for compost. Leaves will add texture and vital nutrients that are invaluable for a healthy, growing garden.

FCMP Outdoor IM4000 Tumbling Composter, 37 gallon, Black
Buy on Amazon

Make leaf mold

Leaf mold is a natural organic compound that is the result of leaf decomposition. It creates the most fantastic ingredient to add to your compost or use as a mulch around your plants. Even better, leaf mold constitutes one of the very best soil improvers that nature offers.

The best way to create leaf mold is to chop the leaves into fine pieces using a shredder or leaf mulcher. Moisten the leaves and bag up the result. You will need to store the bags in a cool, dark environment, and after a while, you will end up with a material that is fine and crumbly.

Lawn treatment

If the layer is not too thick, you may use a lawnmower to chop up the fallen debris. By going over the area a couple of times with a lawnmower, the blades will gradually chop the leaves into fine pieces.

The chopped waste will decompose into the lawn, providing the grass with much-needed food. However, this method may only work with a thin layer of debris because otherwise, it will form a thick layer of detritus that may harm the lawn.

The last resort

Perhaps you don’t have a garden, and yet the fall fills your yard with debris. Consequently, your only option is to gather the waste and bag them up for curbside collection.

A leaf blower or a rake will aid with the collection of leaf waste. Use compostable bags because they will rot away in the landfill together with the leaves and offers an eco-friendlier method of disposal. Furthermore, you may maximize bag space by shredding the waste before you bag them.

Make sure to look for a local green dump, a place that you can take decomposable items like leaves and branches instead of the landfill before putting them out for garbage collection.

What to Do with Leaves Explained

Fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year. The weather takes on a cooler, crisper aspect, and there is a freshness to the air that promises wonderful things to come. Furthermore, the colors of the trees change to a rich tapestry of reds and oranges as though an artist has painted the landscape.

However, as the colorful canopy falls to the ground, we wonder what to do with the problem. Using shredders and leaf mulchers to chop the waste enables us to compost the waste or create a rich and nutritious mulch for our gardens. Making your own leaf mold to enrich your soil proves an excellent use for the leaf waste. Alternatively, you may chop up the debris and bag them up in compostable bags for curbside collection.

Do you have any advice to share? Why not comment below with your suggestions. We look forward to hearing from you.

Sean Kerr lives in Cardiff, Wales, and is a published author with over 10 novels to his name so far and still counting. Sean also writes lawn and garden articles for other websites, such as Lawn Dethatcher Guide and Simple Family Preparedness.

As well as writing his next bestseller, Sean also runs a successful Jewelry making business and sells his creations online.