Using Leaves for Mulch or Compost – Even in Tampa Bay!

Tis the season for bags of beautiful fall leaves to be gathered up into plastic bags and unceremoniously dumped into landfills. If you think it seems senseless to turn this organic material into garbage, we agree!

There are several ways that you can use these carbon-rich leaves into mulch, compost, and even fertilizer.

Although Florida is not known for its fall foliage, there are leaves which do drop their leaves in the fall season.

By mid-November, trees such as the bald cypress, Florida maple, and crepe myrtle will lose their leaves and scatter over your lawn. Therefore Floridians can also use leaves they collect to provide nutrients to their lawns and gardens.

Did You Know? Some oak tree varieties and the local jacaranda tree will lose leaves in the spring between February and April – giving you a great source of natural mulch in the spring season as well.

Preparing Leaves for Mulch & More

It is important to remember when utilizing leaves for mulch to first use a mulching lawn mower to shred the leaves. They will likely not break down completely over the winter months, and it is not good for your lawn or garden to be smothered by a mat of leaves.

  • Making Mulch: Leaves make wonderful mulch for both flower and vegetable gardens, and are even effective as a soil additive in your container gardening. Just add a 2 inch layer of shredded leaves to the soil, being careful to not let the leaves to directly come in contact with the stems or roots. Mulch made from leaves retains moisture in the soil, which is a great benefit during the dry months of a Florida winter, and the material even helps to deter weed growth. Over time, whether in a bed or container, the broken-down leaves will add nutrients to the soil and result in a lighter, fluffier, more nutrient dense soil for your plants.
  • Making Compost: If you are a fan of composting, fallen leaves are a fantastic addition. Simply layer the brown, high carbon material which leaves provide with your usual sources of “green” material – such as fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells, weeds, grass clippings, or dead plants from your beds. Turn over the compost occasionally, and you’ll have a rich, healthy compost by spring.
  • Making Leaf Mold: Leaf mold provides a natural way to greatly enhance your container gardening. Similar to mulch, leaf mold is a nutrient-rich soil amendment that will help to restore the soil’s original pH balance, or add needed texture. You can make leaf mold, which is excellent to add to potting soil, by simply letting layers of shredded leaves decay, covering with a layer of compost or soil occasionally if you wish. Although best used in potted plants, leaf mold will also do wonders in flower and vegetable gardens.
  • Mulch for Your Lawn: One of the easiest ways to utilize fall leaves for lawn mulch is by simply mowing over them and leaving the shredded leaves on your lawn. They will eventually break down, adding nutrients to your lawn and helping to deter weed growth. Remember that a mulching lawn mower is needed, however – a regular lawn mower will not break down the material completely.

If you have oaks – or other Florida trees which can shed leaves – consider using those leaves to beautify the rest of your lawn and garden.

Big Earth Landscape Supply is a trusted source of local expert information, helping you to cultivate beautiful flower beds and lawns from Tampa to Sarasota.

Shop our great products or stop by one of our four area locations. This is the perfect time to prepare for next season.