URBANA, Ill. – Rather than bagging or removing fallen leaves, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Rhonda Ferree suggests using them in your yard.
“The tree leaves that accumulate in and around your landscape represent a valuable natural resource that can be used to provide a good source of organic matter and nutrients for use in your landscape,” Ferree says. “Leaves contain 50 to 80 percent of the nutrients a plant extracts from the soil and air during the season. Therefore, leaves should be managed and used rather than bagged or burned.”
Ferree says adding a 2-inch layer of leaf mulch adds approximately 150 pounds of nitrogen, 20 pounds of phosphorus, and 65 pounds of potassium per acre. Due to natural soil buffering and breakdown in most soil types, leaf mulch also has no significant effect on soil pH. Even oak leaves, which are acid (4.5 to 4.7 pH) when fresh, break down to be neutral to slightly alkaline.
According to Ferree, there are four basic ways leaves can be managed and used in the landscape.
Ferree also recommends jumping in the pile of leaves “at least once.”