Did you know that there is a free source of mulch and fertilizer, likely nearby, and almost limitless this time of year? It's true, and a lot of people consider this wonderful commodity to be a pain. So they bag it up and leave it near the street. This fabulous garden commodity is is fall leaves, and we recommend you gather yours and use them in your garden. Dry leaves are good for a few things.
Chopped-up leaf matter is perfect for your compost pile. Compost requires a mixture of greens (fresh stuff like kitchen scraps and grass or garden clippings) and brown (dead leaves, compostable newspaper or brown paper bags). Green provides nitrogen, brown provides carbon. Compost piles need 2 to 4 times more brown than green, so keeping your bagged dry leaves to use throughout the year in your compost pile is a good choice.
Run over your leaves with your lawnmower a few times, with the bag attached, to make a finer mix of leaf matter. (Smaller particles decompose faster.) Bag the leaf choppings in leaf and lawn bags and add some to your compost pile.
Leaves make good mulch for your garden and frost-sensitive perennials, like artichokes, that do fine in our climate but benefit from a little extra love in the winter. If you spread them out over the garden, they'll keep your soil from getting compacted by Southern Oregon's lovely winter rain. (That will make your tilling job less intensive next spring.) You can also heap them over dormant berry plants and perennials that die back to the ground to insulate from cold wind and weather.
If you run over the leaves with a lawnmower, it will de-fluff piles and help your leaf matter stay in place better and not blow away.Other Uses
- Soil aeration: chopped up leaves can be worked into soil to help add air and nutrients. Microbes will eat the leaves and enrich your dirt, and in the meantime, leaf matter mixed in with dirt allows space for air to hang out.
- Lawn "fertilizer." Maybe not technically, but if you don't have lots of leaves, it won't hurt your lawn. Use your mulching lawnmower (without the bag) to mow over leaves until they're ground up fairly fine and mostly disappear into the grass. They'll break down and be good for your lawn.