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It’s been more like spring temperatures than fall but with this weekend’s cooler weather, look for more color and ergo more leaves to rake. The good news? Who doesn’t want to be outdoors on days like this? Fall finally showed up in the Pacific Northwest, and color popped overnight. Blue skies, brilliant red and yellow leaves, and crisp weather. Perfect days for garden clean-up.

Leaves: Don’t give them away

Grab a rake. Rake matted leaves off the lawn to avoid killing grass. Rake out beds and borders where leaves are piled high  but don’t rake them to the curb for the city to pick up and haul off to landfills. Shred them, mulch them, or compost them because they’re garden gold. Pound for pound, they have twice the nutrient content of manure. They’re organic roughage, aerating the soil for better drainage, root growth, and gas exchange, and they’re food for beneficial microbes.

  • Create a leaf only compost pile. When the leaves break down, add the organic result to the garden as leaf mold. Shredding the leaves will quicken the breakdown process. If you don’t have room for piles of leaves, put them in plastic bags, and poke holes in the bags, saving them for future use. Leaf mold holds up to 500% its weight in water (hello drought) and helps cool roots and foliage, absorbs rainwater runoff. Pretty great for something most home gardeners throw away.
  • Shred them and apply as mulch to beds, around shrubs, and over tender perennials for insulation this fall.
  • Start a compost pile and add them as the “browns.” Add perennial plant waste and grass clippings for your “greens.”