Making Good Use of Fall Foliage

November 2021 Tree of the Month: Sugar Maple
December Tree of the Month: American Holly

By: Kate Bolkin

Colorful autumn leaves are a staple of the season and we are so fortunate to watch Queen City become an array of yellows, oranges, and reds.  But with the change of temperature comes time for deciduous trees to shed their summer coat all over our lawns, parks, streets, and sidewalks.  Fallen leaves have properties that are beneficial to soil structure, plant health, and wildlife! Yet, 8 million tons of leaves are bagged up in plastic and taken to landfills, where all of their awesome attributes are wasted.

Here are a few easy ways to make use of your fall leaves for an eco-friendly fall.

1. Free Mulch

Skip the trip to the garden store and use your tree’s self-made mulch to prepare your tree or garden for winter!  You can leave the leaves as they are or rake them up and shape the pile into a ring around the tree (as you would with hardwood mulch or pine needles).  You can also lay them flat around your garden beds.  Leaves (like other types of organic mulch) help retain moisture, add nutrients, hold onto warmth, and improve structure in the soil.  Not to mention, many types of native wildlife like bees, butterflies, spiders, and more use fallen leaves as a warm winter home. If you can, we recommend not shredding the leaves first in order to protect wildlife habitat.

2. Compost Them

If you have a thick layer of leaves and you want to get rid of some, you can still make use of of their natural benefits by doing some DIY composting. The materials are minimal and the process is simple. If you do it right, your compost will be ready to feed your landscaping by spring! Find out more about turning your leaves into compost here.

 3. Make a Scarecrow (or another fun art project)

While leaving your leaves as mulch or transforming compost is highly practical, you can also get some fun out of fall foliage too! Thanks to trees, we have free “stuffing” at our disposal.  Use your fallen leaves to stuff a decorative scarecrow!  There are lots of other creative projects you can do with fall leaves, including making collages, lanterns, and stick-people.  Find your next art project here!