As the Kansas winds pick up during the fall season, these gusty conditions help to shake the leaves loose from the trees resulting in golden piles in your backyard. Many are eager to pull out the rakes or the leaf blowers to keep lawns picked up. While bagging up leaves for collection is the main way many folks take care of fall leaves, there are also other creative ways to recycle autumn leaves that can enrich your soil for next spring.
Mulching your leaves will be key in aiding the breakdown process of your leaves whether you decide to compost the leaves or create leaf mold. This can be done by using a mulcher or by mowing your leaves to chop them into small pieces and collecting them in a grass collection bag attached to the mower.
If you compost biodegradable kitchen scraps in your backyard, adding leaves to the mixture can further enrich your soil. You will want to make sure you turn the pile every couple of weeks to let oxygen aid in the decomposition process. Keep in mind that some leaves will break down slower than other leaves, but that is fine as any leaf pieces left by spring will continue to decompose.
The soil that eventually comes from these compost piles can be used in gardens, planters or added to landscaping to aid in healthy plant growth in the spring. Leaves help to not only aerate the soil but can also help with moisture retention which can be key if your soil composition consists of more sand.
Leaf mold is a similar process to composting and will take some time to be completed. The benefits of leaf mold are similar to composting and could take anywhere from 6 months to 1 year for it to occur, if not longer. This can be done in a garbage bag with holes poked in the bag to allow for oxygen. Collect the chopped leaves in the bag, dampen them with water and then seal the bag. You will want to make sure the leaves stay dampened and turn the leaves in the bag periodically. You will know leaf mold has started to settle in when the leaves begin to crumble and let off an earthy smell.
If composting and creating leaf mold sound like more time and effort than you would like to put into the process, you can also turn your fall leaves into mulch around your landscaping or garden. Use chopped leaves or rake up smaller leaves onto your mulch beds leaving space around the plants to make sure air can circulate the plant. When you lay the mulch initially, be sure to spray it down with water to weigh down the leaves. It will help keep the leaves from blowing away in the Kansas wind which we know can turn gusty during the fall and winter months. This form of mulch can help insulate plants from the cold temperatures, help to control the development of weeds as well as improve the soil around the plants as the leaves slowly decompose through the winter and spring season.
You may also choose to leave some of the leaves behind for wildlife to enjoy for protection from the cold Kansas temperatures. Many insects and critters use it as insulation and can be used to protect other plants.
Finally, the gorgeous fall leaves can be great craft projects with your family. It can be as simple as collecting leaves, placing them between two pieces of wax paper and using an iron to help transfer the wax to the leaves for preservation. These leaves can then be utilized in decorations or fall crafts.
— Meteorologist Erika Paige