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Don't rake those leaves!

By Mary Beth Breckenridge Published: October 1, 2013


If this picture makes you think of work, think again.

From a landscaping perspective, you're looking at pure gold.

Autumn leaves are good news for lawns and gardens. They're a free source of fertilizer and an insulating material to protect plants from the wicked winter ahead.

Instead of raking those leaves and disposing of them, try running over them with a mulching mower to chop them up. Unless you're left with an abundance, you can just leave the pieces in place on the lawn to break down over winter and enrich the soil. If the layer is still thick after you've chopped the leaves, rake some off so they won't smother the grass, and add them to a compost pile.

Don't be too meticulous about raking leaves out of landscaping beds, either. Leave some behind to moderate the soil temperature, protect plant crowns and prevent heaving over winter. In spring you can rake away what's left, or just put a little high-nitrogen fertilizer on top of the remaining leaves to help break them down.

Leaves are also great for protecting shrub roses, particularly grafted roses such as hybrid teas, floribundas and grandifloras. Put three stakes in the ground around the rose, wrap burlap around the stakes to create an enclosure, and fill the cavity with leaves. Remove the protection before growth begins in spring.

Another great use for leaves: Dump them in a place where you want to create a planting bed next year. The leaves will smother the grass over winter so you don't have to strip the sod. In spring you can rake off most of the remaining leaves and incorporate the rest into the soil.

(Photo courtesy



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