How can I use my falling leaves to improve my garden and landscape?
The best way to improve any soil is to add organic matter. What better time to do it than when we have lots of organic matter falling from trees. Leaves can be tilled into the vegetable garden and annual flower beds. The leftover vegetable and flower plants also make excellent organic matter. Till them in with the leaves.
Leaves make excellent mulch around trees, shrubs, berries and perennial flowers. You can run your rotary lawn mower over leaves to chop them into smaller pieces before using them as mulch. I add an inch or two of chopped leaves and grass clippings in the fall around all of my permanent plants.
Other good sources of organic matter include grass clippings, bark dust, sawdust, peat moss, coco fiber and various commercial composts that usually contain bark and manure. Manure, although usually thought of as a fertilizer, does as much good for physical soil improvement as for fertilization. Even fresh manure can be added in the fall without any worry about burning. Manure that has been stored near weedy areas can be a source for weed seeds. Bagged manure has been heat composted to kill weed seeds.
You can add as much as 3 to 4 inches of leaves, compost or bark dust when incorporating it into the soil. Or you can add a smaller amount and do it yearly for gradual improvement.