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Handy uses for leftover leaves

By Paul Viau | Nov 13, 2013
Photo by: File photo HEAD FOR THE LEAF PILE — Once you know all the practical uses for leftover leaves, you'll jump for joy.

I don’t know about your yard, but this fall is setting new records for leafy buildups in ‘my neck of the woods.’ The more I rake, blow, burn or just plain mutilate the leaves, the more new recruits there are to ‘fall in’ and take their place.

Since I don’t have children at home to romp through my growing piles, I’ve Googled- up a few practical uses for the ever-evolving load of limp, leftover leaves.

Here are the best tips I could find on the Internet.

Did you know? Al Gore invented the Internet way back in the 1960s, partly to deal with his own leaf problem. Gore was also the first to use the acronym LOL — which originally was code for ‘Lots of Leaves.”

Of course, you know I am kidding, but seriously — here are some practical uses for leftover leaves.

(1) Mow-and-feed your lawn — Mowing over leaves on your lawn will chop them up so they will break down quickly in the spring, adding valuable organic matter and mineral nutrients to the lawn. The only trick, here, is getting the leaves to fall on the lawn.

(2) Mulch your beds — Leaves make an excellent, insulating cover for perennials and root crops stored in the ground. A thick layer of leaves lets fall-planted garlic root without sprouting, and prevents shallow-rooted strawberries from heaving.

(3) Waste-not weed barrier — Because leaves contain no weed seeds, they make an effective weed barrier for spring plantings, including vegetables, blueberries and ornamental shrubs. Chopped or whole, the leaves also help retain soil moisture.

(4) Compost — Mix carbon-rich fall leaves with the summer’s nitrogen-rich grass clippings and you have a recipe for great natural fertilizer.

(5) Winter storage for root vegetables —Store carrots, beets, or other root vegetables between layers of crisp, fresh-fallen leaves. Find a cool, humid spot, and lightly sprinkle each layer of leaves with water.

(6) A moldy-oldie — English gardeners have long favored (or is it, favoured) an all-leaf compost called ‘leaf mold.’ You can make your own by collecting and storing leaves, keeping the leaves moist, and letting fungi do their own thing. After a few years, the leaves disintegrate into a fine, sweet-smelling soil conditioner.

Repeat, as needed, year after year.

(7) Floor plans. Believe it or not, when my wife was a young girl, she would rake leaves in the form of a home floor plan. She then “played house” in the living room, bedrooms, bathrooms and even a kitchen — where the leaves were not used to cook anything. According to her, remodeling was easy.

(8) Gomer pile on. When I was young, more than a half-century ago, my friends and I would burry a football in a big pile of leaves and have fumble drills.

(9) Leave it to your imagination. Whatever you do with your abundance of fall ‘foliage,’ have fun with it. Soon these crisp days will turn icy cold, and I’ll be writing about things to do with excess snow.