Okay to use dry leaves as mulch?

eahamel(9a)September 23, 2012

I get bags of dry leaves to put in my compost bins, and was wondering - is there a problem with using them as mulch on my roses and other plants? That's what nature does, and it creates wonderful loamy soil. I've picked up some bags of dry leaves that are small and have curled, so they won't pack down. I also have a bag of pine needles that need to go somewhere.

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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

I use leaves, any kind, and it works fine. Putting down a good solid mulch in the fall will cut way down on your spring weeding, too. Leaves (except for oak) break down fast, so more may be needed next spring or summer. If the garden is sloping, you may want to ruffle up the leaves once they mat down (as they will) to keep them from shedding water. Putting most of the leaves on the garden instead of the compost pile saves labor. They will compost themselves eventually.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 12:39PM
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ken-n.ga.mts(7a/7b)

I've been using leaves for years. Big pile in late fall. By early fall next season everything has gone back into the soil.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 1:06PM
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eahamel(9a)

Thanks, I don't know why I haven't thought about this before! I grew up going into the woods and would bring back composted leaves for my plants, but have always bought bagged mulch. Since I can get all the bagged leaves I need for free this time of year, why not? Weeds will come up through it, though. We have a native tradescantia that's really awful and just about impossible to get rid of. I'll have to keep digging them out all winter, probably (mild winters here).

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 2:41PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Only drawback is if you get strong winds, they will all get blown away. Been there, lost those...

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 2:44PM
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seil zone 6b MI

I've used leaves for years too with no problems. A lot of people said you shouldn't use maple leaves, that only oak leaves were good, but all I have is maple trees and the leaves are free so that's what I use! Actually the one year I did get some oak leaves from a neighbor and I didn't like them at all. They didn't break down one bit so come spring I couldn't turn the bottom layer into the soil to feed it like I like to do.

Sometimes I'll put up a little burlap wind break to help keep them in place on the beds but not always. Yes, they do blow away somewhat but believe me there's always still a ton to take off come spring, lol!

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 4:38PM
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cecily(7 VA)

I have oak, beech and maple leaves with white pine needles mixed in. I collect them off the lawn with the mulching mower so the result is a fine mix. They break down quickly -- there's little left by spring and they don't blow away. My max winter winds are around 50 mph and we get enough precipitation to keep them soggy all winter. In spring I need to purchase bark mulch 'cuz there's really nothing left of the leaves.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 5:06PM
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buford(7 NE GA)

I use a vac/shredder and chomp up the leaves, all kinds. Mostly oak. I then try to put a layer of compost or composted manure over the leaves to keep them from blowing away. This has made a tremendous change in my soil, for the better. And I find I need to fertilize much less.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 6:24PM
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eahamel(9a)

Thanks for the info, everyone. I think I can use my lawnmower to chop up some oak leaves, and am mixing home made compost into the new soil, and can save some to go on top of the leaves. Or maybe the two bales of alfalfa that I have would work for that. It's really compacted.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 8:20AM
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ingrid_vc(Z10 SoCal)

When I put dry leaves around the roses I immediately water them. Since I water by hand they stay moist, which keeps them from blowing away and probably also helps to decompose them during the six to eight months when we have almost no rain.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 12:52PM
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flaurabunda(6a, Central IL)

We chipped & bagged our leaves last fall & used them in the spring as mulch. They broke down well, but never blew away.

I did what someone here suggested; after chipping them, we put them into large, black Hefty bags & poked drain holes in the bags. The pots with all the perennials were put under the deck & we used the bags to insulate them over the winter. Every few weeks we'd go outside & "fluff up" and turn the bags over.

In the spring, we opened the bags & spread them as mulch. At this point in early fall, they have broken down to a less cushy mat but they are still there.

One tip I have: make the poke holes fairly large and don't overstuff the bags.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 1:36PM
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