Vermont Garden Journal: The Virtues Of Fallen Leaves

Oct 27, 2017

Leaves are beautiful to look at when they turn vibrant colors in fall, but can be a pain to clean up when they drop. Instead of cursing your fallen leaves, rejoice in them! Leaves can help your flowers, vegetables, lawn, trees and shrubs grow better. 

Allowing leaves to decompose on the lawn puts back vital nutrients into the soil. The key is to shred them with a mower into smaller pieces to decompose faster. Leaves have also been shown to inhibit weed growth. A study at Michigan State University showed that leaving maple and oak leaves on the lawn inhibited dandelion growth by 84 percent the next year. 

Of course, if you have a one or two-foot thick layer of leaves, you'll need to remove some so you don't smother the grass. Rake up the extra leaves to make leaf-mold piles. These piles will decompose in a year or two into usable compost that you can work into your garden.

You can also collect leaves, chop them and use as winter mulch around roses, raspberries and garlic. Just remember to use plastic or wire netting to hold them in place so they don't blow away.

Now for this week's tip: use heavy, winter-weight row covers to protect established vegetables, such as greens and root crops, from temperatures as low as 25 degrees.