What to do with all the leaves at this time of year? Fall leaves can be so much fun and are free organic fertilizer strewn about just waiting to be collected. If those nutrients were bagged and sold, you'd pay money for them.
Here at Friendly Organics we are all about sustainability and where possible collect and reuse. If you collect leaves and compost them, you have a valuable soil amendment. However leave them to rot naturally and most will smother lawns, rot on your paths causing a slip hazard or blow away into a neighbours property. But rather than simply head out and collect those little beauties, consider having a little fun and working smarter not harder.
We do this with many people young and old, make a big pile of leaves, a huge pile and jump in it (when was the last time you did this?). With or without your kids. Invite your adult friends to join in too.
Any leaves will always compost quicker if they are mulched, go over your leaf pile with your mower, as many times as needed to break them up, then use as mulch in your perennial garden.
Most Towns and Cities collect leaves and have issues with storage, many will gladly give you leaves, as mentioned an excellent free source of compost.
Look around your neighbourhood, note of very tidy yards with big trees. These people probably rake and bag their leaves. Plan to contact them to ask if you can have their leaves for your compost pile. We know of a business in the Cowichan Valley who is making a small living from leaf composting.
Make a scarecrow by stuffing leaves into old clothes -- or even burlap bags (your local coffee shop might have some). Set the scarecrow in a lawn chair by your front door to amuse the mailman.
Make a bug hotel, fallen leaves can provide cover for overwintering beneficial insects, such as lacewings and ground beetles. You can serve both your need for a neat garden and the insects' need for winter homes by creating refugia: make envelopes of chicken wire, fill them with fallen leaves and sticks, and place them in a sheltered location. (Make your refugia into creative shapes, and you have garden art, as well!)
Are you creative or artistic? Collect the prettiest leaves and iron them between sheets of waxed paper. Mount on matboard and frame them to enjoy year-round.
If you have garden beds, consider piling leaves on the pathways between, giving you a dry walk way, next spring simply rake up and apply the decomposing leaves into your planting areas.
Add fallen leaves to indoor worm composting bins. They introduce key decomposers, such as springtails and microbes, to the worm bin ecosystem that help the worms do their jobs better.
Create table centre pieces for festive dinner events. Use attractive fall leaves, unshelled nuts, branches with berries, and other fall garden treasures.
Leaves are quite often just cleaned up and forgotten about but as you can see they can provide hours of fun and be helpful in the garden.