7 Things to Do With Fall Leaves

Fall leaves on tree

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Pile them up, and then jump in; it’s still just as much fun as ever. But after the fun, don’t rake your fall leaves to the curb. Leaves can have multiple uses in the yard and garden. They can even become decorations for your home.

Here are seven ways to use fall leaves.

  • 01 of 07

    Compost Pile

    compost bins

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    Compost piles need a balance of wet, green materials and dry, brown materials. For instance, fresh grass clippings make for good green materials. And fallen leaves are a perfect brown material.

    Add the leaves that you rake from your yard to your compost pile. They will decompose faster if you shred them first, but that's not required. If you have too many leaves to add to the compost pile all at once, save them in a dry trash can until spring when there will be more wet, green materials available.

  • 02 of 07

    Leaf Mold

    leaf mold

    The Spruce / Marie Iannotti

    Leaf mold may not sound like a good thing, but it can do miraculous things for your garden soil. Leaf mold is the crumbly, compost-like product that remains when leaves are left to decompose on their own. It’s what makes forests smell so earthy. Leaf mold doesn’t add a lot of nutrients to the soil, but it improves the soil's structure and ability to retain water. It also attracts beneficial organisms that are important to healthy soil.

    To make leaf mold, dampen your leaves and then store them in a wood or wire bin or a trash bag with some air holes. Periodically add more water to the leaves if they become dry. Decomposition takes about six to 12 months. To use leaf mold, simply dig it into your soil.

  • 03 of 07

    Mulch

    shredded leaves as mulch around plants

    The Spruce / Marie Iannotti

    Leaves can make attractive natural mulch in the garden. They're able to suppress weeds, and eventually they'll decompose and improve the soil. It's best to shred the leaves first if you plan to use them for mulch. A thick layer of whole leaves can form a solid mat, especially when they're wet, and block water and air from getting through to the soil.

    When shredded, the leaves can insulate plant roots from cold weather without blocking water or air. However, shredded leaves can blow around on windy days. But if you hose them down when you first spread them, that should help to keep them in place.

  • 04 of 07

    Plant Insulation

    leaves around a plant

    The Spruce / Marie Iannotti

    Leaves can be used to insulate plants from cold weather. To provide protection for plants, including container plantings, circle a plant with wire fencing. Then, stuff leaves inside the fencing all the way around the plant. In the spring, remove the fencing, rake up the leaves, and use them for composting.

    Moreover, if you have a root cellar or storage basement, you can use dry leaves to layer your vegetables in, rather than using sawdust or newspaper. This should allow them to be stored through the winter.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Lawn Food

    fallen leaves on grass

    The Spruce / Marie Iannotti

    Mulching your leaves into your lawn saves you time and energy, as you won’t have to rake and dispose of them. And it can improve the soil, so your grass remains healthy through the winter and into the spring.

    Simply run a mulching mower over the leaves, so they're chopped into tiny pieces and get pushed down into the soil. You don't want to leave a thick layer of leaves on the lawn, as this can smother and kill the grass. But unless you have a lot of leaves, the mower should disperse the leaves enough that your grass will be able to breathe just fine.

  • 06 of 07

    Fall Decor

    pressed leaves
    igor kisselev, www.close-up.biz / Getty Images

    Before the dropped leaves lose their vivid fall colors, gather some for preserving. You can use them as seasonal decor both inside and outside your home.

    A quick and easy preservation method is simply ironing leaves between two sheets of wax paper. The wax paper will seal around the leaves to protect them. Then, you can cut out your leaves and use them for decorations.

  • 07 of 07

    Soil Amendments

    soil with leaves

    The Spruce / Marie Iannotti

    Rather than spending time creating compost or leaf mold, you can skip that step and simply add leaves straight to your garden beds as a soil amendment. It's ideal to shred the leaves first, but even that's not essential.

    You can either dig leaves into the top few inches of soil. Or you can spread a layer of leaves on top of the soil and chop them a bit with a fork or spade. Just be sure they are making good contact with the soil. The leaves will begin to disintegrate and provide a wonderful habitat for earthworms and other beneficial organisms that reside in garden soil.