How to make your leaves work in your garden

Learn how to use fallen leaves to mulch and protect your plants from extreme temperatures

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As much as we’d like to believe we can hibernate during winter and rid ourselves of landscaping chores until spring, the leaves remind us otherwise.

Leaves can seriously damage the health and appearance of lawns. At a minimum, they can cause thatch and dead patches as new grass attempts to emerge in spring.

Even when motivated to rake, some of us don’t know what to do with the leaves once they are piled and bagged. Luckily, dead leaves are loaded with nutrients and can be used as organic mulch and compost in your gardens and beds.

Mulch is a necessary component for protecting plants against winter weather while also preserving moisture and nutrients.

Here’s how to get started:

1. After raking your lawn, spread leaves over gardens and beds to add a layer of mulch.

2. Keep leaves from blowing back onto your lawn by including a layer of pine straw, wood chips, or some other material that will keep the leaves covered and in place.

This will help provide maximum protection for plant roots and bulbs.

mulching encore azaleas

3. As the winter months pass, the leaves begin to break down and become a form of compost.

This is not the same compost as you’ll achieve in a composting bin since the leaves will not have time to completely decompose in only a few months, but the process begins nonetheless.

4. When it comes time to plant in spring, the ground beneath the leaves will be moist and nutrient-rich.

While planting, move leaves to the side and then push back in place to continue composting as well as help maintain soil moisture and summer weather protection.

mulching encore azaleas

For more garden ideas, click here.

To browse the full Encore Azalea collection, click here.

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