Dear pretty fall foliage: We love seeing you dot the branches of our backyard trees, but we hate the hours we lose raking and bagging so that you don’t ruin our lawn. This year, we’re doing these five things to repurpose you and put you to work. 

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Shred Them and Use Them to Insulate Outdoor Plants

Leaf shredding is easy: Just slowly run your lawn mower through the pile of leaves you raked. (You can also invest in a leaf mulcher.) After they’re shredded, spread the leaves around the base of tender perennial plants like lilies or lavender to give them an extra layer of protection from the cold.

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Turn Them Into Mulch

Using shredded leaves to cover cleared-out veggie and flower beds is a cost-effective alternative to store-bought mulch. It also helps increase moisture in the soil and protect buds and seeds still folded deep within the dirt.

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Mix Them Right Into Your Soil for Earthworm-Rich Dirt

In some cases, blending leaves into the top two to three inches of soil is as beneficial as spreading manure. Here’s why: Leaves decompose over the course of the winter, enriching the soil and giving earthworms the perfect habitat to thrive. Just use your hands—or a gardening fork—to till them into the ground.

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Turn Them Into Compost

Dry leaves are the ultimate all-organic ingredient for your DIY composting project. Stash them in a pile or bin (along with other materials like garden clippings and vegetable scraps) and, in roughly six months to a year, it will be the best plant food around. And it’s free, so win-win.

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Use Them to Make a Scarecrow

No, you don’t need straw to stuff this garden fixture to the gills—dry leaves work equally as well. You just need an old pair of pants, a shirt and twine. 

RELATED: The 10-Second Trick to Getting All Those Leaves Off Your Porch

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