If you’re like me and are lucky enough to be surrounded by deciduous trees (those that drop their leaves) in your garden, then you will of course be aware of the beauty they bring as the seasons change throughout the year. There are many benefits of having trees in your garden but one might say that the most commonly admired thing about trees is their beautiful display of autumnal colours as their leaves change from rusty yellows, reds and oranges to browns.
More often than not, and I have been guilty of this in the past due to a highly stressful job, the beauty of Autumn trees can be taken for granted and missed. It can almost seem as though one day the trees are green, the next they are bare. Don’t miss out on this wonderful gift from nature. If there is one thing I recommend today, in addition to my top five uses for Autumn leaves, then it is this: to stop for a minute and admire the beauty of the trees around you.
Not only do the colours, shapes and patterns of leaves catch my eye in Autumn but also the movement and sounds they make. From hearing them way up high as they hang on the branches for their last time, rustling as the wind rushes through, to taking a walk over the top of crispy, crunchy leaves that have already succumbed to the power of this invisible force of nature. For those of you with children this is a perfect opportunity, at this time of year, to have a go at a ‘noise scavenger hunt’ in amongst nature.
I equally like to take a moment to watch leaves as they fall towards the ground either in frenzied spirals or in rocking motions, just like a boat being rocked on the sea by gentle waves. There is so much beauty to be seen at this time of year and so many things to have a go at!
Did you know? Some believe it is good luck to catch a falling leaf.
Whilst I have tried this on numerous occasions, it’s not actually as easy as it sounds. Let your inner child have a try and if all fails, at least your family or friends will have had fun watching you!
I am aware that leaves don’t always bring fun and beauty, in fact they can be a bit of a slippy, sludgy hazard, especially on paths after a good rainfall. Let’s be honest too, they can be slightly irritating and require a whole lot of patience on your part. This is particularly true after spending a substantial amount of time raking up what seems like a few hundred leaves on your garden lawn, to then find a dozen more have fallen overnight. But rest assured if you are new to gardening, there are many ways to recycle these old, brown leaves that have now been piled up into a heap, as well as many benefits. Take a look below:
These are my top five uses for Autumn leaves in your garden:
1. Soil Structure
Adding shredded leaves to your soil will help to improve structure and moisture retention as well as attracting earthworms.
Covering soil with a layer of shredded leaves (known as mulching) will provide a protective cover for both perennial plants and shallow tree roots over winter. Shredding leaves enables rainwater to reach the soil more easily. Ensure you don’t put leaves against the trunks of plants, only on the soil.
It is not only earthworms that can use leaves, other garden wildlife, such as hedgehogs, will appreciate a pile of leaves for their winter beds.
Add some but not all of the shredded leaves to your compost bin. Being a carbon source, leaves are ideal to mix with nitrogen releasing materials, such as grass and other plant waste. With leftover leaves, you could also make leaf mould. This is a compost made entirely from leaves which takes about 1-3 years to make. Once the leaves have rotted down to a rich, earthly humus, the result is a compost that is extremely water retentive as well as being high in minerals like magnesium and calcium.
5. Increasing soil acidity? Reducing paw injuries!
Although different in shape to deciduous tree leaves and more importantly originate from evergreens, pine needles are in fact the leaves of a pine tree. When Autumn arrives, pine needles that have reached maturity and have gone brown in the Summer sun drop from the tree. I have read numerous, conflicting articles about whether or not pine needles actually increase the acidity of the soil. Whether they do or not, I always move the spiky pine needles from our garden lawn to prevent them from ending up in our dogs’ paws and relocate them to the soil around my plants that love acidic soil such as azaleas, rhododendrons and blueberry plants. Since doing so I have noticed that our rhododendrons have been healthier in appearance. This, however, could also be down to the pine needles helping to improve the structure of the soil, allowing it to not get compacted and enabling oxygen and rainwater to reach the roots better. Either way, everyone is happy!