5 ways to use fallen leaves in your garden

Gardener holding leaves
Gardener holding leaves (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you’ve been hard at work mastering how to rake leaves this season, you’re probably wondering what to do with them all. And while bagging up piles for disposal may seem like the easiest method, did you know there are ways you can actually use fallen leaves in your garden?

In fact, leaves can be repurposed in several useful ways, all of which will leverage the fact that they are a rich source of organic minerals. Because of this, your fallen leaves make great fertilizer for your soil and plants, which will help your garden look better while also saving you money on plant-feed in the long term. So, before you tackle your backyard, make sure you read this guide on the 5 ways to use fallen leaves in your garden.

Be sure to know what the different types of rakes are before raking. Bear in mind, fallen leaves can be good for your lawn and has its benefits. Before you compost anything, check out these 11 things you should never throw on the compost heap. 

5 ways to use fallen leaves in your garden

Before we start, it's worth bearing in mind that, although fallen leaves make great fertilizer, they have to be collected and processed first. This means you mustn't just leave them sitting on your lawn, so you will still need to manage the abundance of leaves by frequently raking your backyard. Raking leaves is an important part of lawn care to ensure your grass stays healthy and greener for spring. If not, a thick layer of leaves can suffocate the grass blades, and deprive it from essential nutrients it needs to thrive. With that out of the way, let's dive into the ways to use fallen leaves.

1. Compost leaves 

Composting leaves in a bin

Composting leaves in a wooden bin (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Add raked piles of leaves to the compost pile and mix with other organic matter. Typically, compost works well from a mixture of wet, green garden waste (like grass clippings) and dry brown matter (such as leaves). While leaves will decompose faster if you shred them first, you can still add whole leaves to the compost pile all at once and obtain great results (it'll just take longer for them to break down). Compost should always remain moist, and remember to turn it regularly to allow in oxygen, which aids in the decomposition. If this is done, some composts can actually be ready to use in under a month.  

2. Mulch the leaves 

Mulching leaves for soil

Mulching leaves for soil (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Leaf mulch is a popular way of reusing leaves, and has a number of benefits. Not only can mulch make a great soil conditioner, but it is also able to suppress the growth of weeds around your garden. “The most effective way to do it is by using a leaf shredder or lawn mower that has a mulching attachment,” advises Chris Bonnett, the founder of Gardening Express, “You can also do it manually with a rake or pitchfork but this method is much more time-consuming. Add the shredded leaves to flower beds and spread them around trees and shrubs about 2 to 3 inches thick.” 

3. Keep plants warm 

A child planting a peppermint plant

A child planting a peppermint plant (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Leaves can make a good insulator for plants and protect them from frost and severe temperatures over winter. “Just surround the plant with wire fencing and stuff it with leaves that protect the plant,” advises Bonnett. Once spring arrives, you can then remove the fencing, rake up the leaves, and reuse them again for composting. 

4. Make lawn feed from leaves 

Mowing grass with a lawn mower

Mulching leaves with a lawn mower (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Mulched leaves can be used to feed your lawn to improve the soil quality. Simply shred your leaves with a mulching mower and push the tiny pieces down into the ground using a fork. This will ensure your grass remains healthy through the winter, right up into the spring. Just avoid leaving a thick layer of leaves on the lawn, as this can suffocate and kill the grass.  

5. Make leaf mold 

Leaves stored in wire basket

Leaves stored in wire bin (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Leaf mold may not sound very appealing, but it can improve soil quality and structure by helping the soil retain more water. Similar to compost, leaf mold is the darker, crumbly form that usually appears when leaves are left to decompose on their own. To make leaf mold, simply dampen your leaves before storing them in a wood/wire bin or a trash bag with some air holes. If they dry out, add a little water from time to time until. Full decomposition usually takes around six to 12 months, then it’s ready to spread onto your soil.  

What is the quickest way to rake leaves?

Raking leaves into blue tarp

Raking leaves into blue tarp (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you have an abundance of leaves covering your lawn, a quick way to gather them is to lay a large sheet of tarpaulin in your garden. Either rake your piles or blow all of the leaves onto the sheet. Once you’ve gathered all your leaves on the sheet, simply gather up the corners of the sheet, tie them up and transport it.  

Dealing with fall leaves? Be sure to also check out how I've been using this leaf vacuum — and it's a game changer for my yard, I also used four different tools to get rid of leaves — here's what worked best; how to clean gutters — with or without a ladder

Other lawn tips: 7 lawnmower mistakes you’re probably making right now, how to dethatch a lawn and how much you should water your lawn to keep it green, according to experts. Also check out the 5 ways to prepare your garden tools for spring.

Plus, check out 5 lawncare tips to beat the frost this winter

Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!