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How to use shredded leaves

There's no reason to work so hard raking leaves, make the leaves work for you

Radio interview source: David Robson, Extension Horticulture Educator, University of Illinois

 

Listen to the radio mp3 or read below

Raking up a big pile of leaves to jump into is great fun. But once you're done, don't burn the leaves or set them out on the curb – shred them up and add them to your soil and gardens. Leaves feed earthworms and beneficial organisms, and lighten heavy soils.
 
David Robson is an extension horticulture educator at the University of Illinois. He says you can use a leaf shredder or a leaf vac to pulverize the leaves. Another easy way to shred them is to run over them with the mower until they're in little pieces.

You can then toss them onto the compost pile, but Robson likes to work in shredded leaves as a soil amendment.

"Whether it's in your flower garden, vegetable garden, you're planting a tree, I add to my containers on my patio. If you just shred your leaves and let them fall between your grass, it's going to add organic matter to the soil for your turf," says Robson. "It's also going to add maybe some thatch there, but as long as your turf soil is healthy, over time that's going to break down and you're going to end up with some wonderful, rich soils that'll be great for establishing and growing a good lawn."

Used as mulch, shredded leaves protect bulbs and perennials over the winter while building organic matter. Lay down thick layers of leaves between rows in your garden, and you'll have a walkway.

"The problem with shredded leaves as a garden path is that sooner or later you get to the point where they break down too much, or they dry and they blow away," says Robson. "If you mix shredded leaves with let's says some shredded bark, shredded tree materials that are a little less likely to be windblown, a little bit bigger, I think you'll probably end up with a nicer type of path."

Be careful which leaves you use. Robson says it's best to avoid leaves from trees in the nut family such as walnut or hickory. They may have toxins that are harmful to some plants.

How to compost fall leaves

Make "leaf mold" and add it to your gardens for natural soil improvement

 

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