3 Ways That Leaves Can Help Improve Your Soil
Are you looking for a cheap source of organic matter to improve your garden soil? Autumn leaves can be gold for your garden – and they’re free!
We have used leaves three different ways to help improve our soil:
- Tilled directly into the soil
- Turned into compost
- Used as a mulch
We use almost every type of leaf that we can find – though we avoid using walnut leaves in mulch, and we avoid adding too many pine needles to our compost pile. Pine needles take a LONG time to decompose, much like wood chips – which I also avoid adding to compost piles.
Pine needles do make a long-lasting mulch, though. We’ve used them as mulch for several years in our blueberry bed, in the hopes that they would make the soil more acid. Unfortunately, they haven’t. I’ve read a few studies that have confirmed that neither pine needles nor other leaves (such as oak) will make soil more acidic. So, don’t worry that using leaves will acidify your soil. They won’t.
Here are a few tips when collecting leaves:
- When possible, avoid trees that have been treated with pesticides
- If you will be using leaves in your vegetable garden, you may want to avoid collecting leaves from a yard with dogs, as their feces often gets mixed into the leaves.
- Avoid collecting walnut leaves to use as mulch – they contain juglone, a compound that can damage or kill many plants. However, composting the leaves will remove the juglone, and the juglone in walnut leaves tilled into the soil should disappear when the leaves decompose.
How have you used leaves in your garden? How well have they worked for you?