How to use fallen leaves in the garden.


Time for quiet reflection on this year’s growing season.

It’s the end of October, and the gardening year is definitely slowing down with shorter days and cooler temperatures. Gardeners everywhere, are discussing the year’s successes and failures, and many are already looking ahead to the next growing season with plans for bigger and better vegetables.

In my garden, the peas were incredible, while the beans struggled with the drought. I have a plentiful supply of onions, garlic, carrots and potatoes in winter storage but it was a slim picking of winter squash and pumpkins, thanks to an army of cucumber beetles. But overall, my garden has given us all that we could possibly eat, with enough to give away. As always, lessons have been learnt, to give the chance of a ‘better’ next year.

To achieve our self-imposed high standards, it’s a good idea to do some preparation now, ready for spring.


For a few weeks, it felt like I was looking through orange tinted glasses!

The last few weeks have been beautiful here in Nova Scotia, the trees gave us a spectacular fall display, with fiery shades of red, orange and yellow but the show is over and crunchy leaves are lying thick on the ground.

A blanket for the winter garden.


Nature’s winter blanket.

Dried leaves are a great mulch and soil amendment, adding fertility and increasing porosity, making them the perfect winter blanket for the garden. So rake them up and spread them on the beds.

The hens like to assist in the raking of leaves, eagerly seeking any tasty morsels lurking underneath.

The hens like to assist in the raking of leaves, eagerly seeking any tasty morsels lurking underneath.

In my garden, I have mostly ash and maple which rot down quickly. Other leaves such as oak are a bit tougher and you may find it better to chop them first by running over them a couple of times with a mower.

According to the scientists, the ratio of carbon to nitrogen needed for sweet smelling compost is about 25:1. Well, I’m not a scientist, I just love being outdoors in the breezy autumnal weather, enjoying the earthy smell that the raking of leaves releases into the air. But to appease the scientists amongst you, and to stop the leaves from blowing away, I balance the carbon with nitrogen by adding a top layer of well-rotted manure or compost. I don’t worry too much about the numbers, knowing that if I add plenty of leaves to a couple of inches of compost it usually works out in the end.


Beds are layered with leaves and compost, before putting hoop frames in place. It’s easier to put the hoops in before the ground is frozen and will be ready for a plastic covering on an early planting of spring greens.


I then walk away and let nature do the arduous task of preparing the soil for spring. By the time the ground has warmed up enough to start planting, the leaves will have rotted and seemingly disappeared, leaving soft, friable earth in their place.


About Jane Fowler

We are working towards a sustainable lifestyle, homeschooling our children, growing all our own food and creating art. Join us in our journey, learning with us along the way.
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7 Responses to How to use fallen leaves in the garden.

  1. Christine Brush says:

    Hello Jane. I just wrote to my friends. I miss Nova Scotia and the Autumn walking the woods and in the leaves. I have been in Ontario near our children since my husband died, but my heart is in Nova Scotia and in our little place in the woods.


  2. Wonderful advice! I just winterized my garden too! 😉


  3. Sally Ann says:

    My hubby had the opportunity to work in Tusket about 5 years ago, he was there for a month and loved it! Rocks, trees, lakes and snow is how he describes it. It is certainly very beautiful where you are.


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