Garden Matters: Use the bounty of fall leaves to enhance your garden

Fall leaves
Photo submitted.
Posted on: October 25, 2018


Now’s the time to start thinking about all the leaves that will be coming down shortly. They make valuable compost, leaf mould, or can be used as a mulch.

Gone are the days when we used to make large bonfires, fill the street with smoke and stand and gossip while the leaves slowly dwindled away. Now we know better. Many communities now collect leaves.

Compost made from leaves adds nutrition to the soil, they help clay soils to break down, and add humus to sandy soils to help them hold water. Leaves contain carbon and a high percentage of minerals, in fact twice the percentage contained in manure.

However, because of this high percentage of carbon it is necessary to add material to the compost pile that contains nitrogen to increase the decomposition. These materials can be grass cuttings, green weeds or manure. Alternatively, they may be substituted with blood meal or bone meal. These materials should be spread out between layers of leaves. The compost heap should be kept watered during dry periods.

Leaves will compost more quickly if they are shredded before adding to the pile. This can be done with a rotary lawnmower, by piling up the leaves and then mowing backwards and forwards over the pile (much easier if you have a helper raking the pile back into a heap between mowing).

Making a compost pile for leaves is a matter of choice. A simple method is to create a rectangular shape using some form of snow fencing or netting on three sides and an opening on the fourth. After one year the pile should be turned over and placed in another container, the following year it should be ready to use.

The best place to put a compost pile is in the back corner of your garden, or behind a shed or hedge, preferably not in a low wet area.

Another method to use leaves on the garden is to make leaf mould. Simply place leaves in a black or dark garbage bag, water it down, and fold the end over. Place the bag in the corner of the garden and wait for a year before taking out the leaf mould.

Leaves can also be used to protect a perennial bed during the winter. Don’t put on the leaves until there is has been a hard frost, as there is a danger of mice making a home in the leaves, also a danger of them being blown away. It’s a mistake to leave leaves lying on the lawn during a winter as it will, unfortunately, kill the grass.

An easy way of picking up leaves is to use two pieces of wood, one in each hand, and scoop them up to put in the wheelbarrow or bags.

Enjoy the new season!

Ankaret Dean is a member of the Lanark County Master Gardeners.  Want to know more about the group or ask a gardening question? Visit our website at or contact us at is a member of the Lanark County Master Gardeners.  Want to know more about the group or ask a gardening question? Visit our website at or contact us at