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Disposing of Leaves: the Best Tips for Autumn Leaves

Bosch leaf blower
Leaves lying around can be quickly blown into a pile with a leaf blower. Afterwards, you can dispose of them.

Autumn Leaves in the Garden

The more beautiful trees you have in your garden, the more leaves will drop in the autumn. The leaves that the trees had just been using to decorate themselves so vibrantly are now lying on the lawn and in the plant beds. Collecting them is an essential task.

But what to do with all that foliage? We have plenty of tips about how you can collect and dispose of fallen leaves, or even better: how you can sensibly use them in the garden.

Why Leaves Shouldn’t End up in The Organic Waste Bin?

Leaves in the organic waste bin
You should not dispose of leaves in the organic waste bin. Instead, use the leaves as raw material in the garden. @iStock/jamievanbuskirk

Your community may also have an organic waste container. This is very practical, because you can dispose of all organic kitchen waste in it. You could also throw the leaves from the garden into this. Gardeners who do not have a composter are particularly fond of this option.

However, the organic waste bin is often filled very quickly, so that the rest would have to be taken to the recycling depot. So, disposal in an organic waste bin is not ideal. It is also always sensible to create cycles in the garden. This means: What arises in the garden should also be reused in the garden. In this way, you can make sure that the waste which results there really is fully recycled. What’s more, you can also save yourself unnecessary transportation journeys.

Therefore, it’s better to collect the leaves in the garden and use our tips for the best thing to do with them.

Collecting together Leaves

It is important that you collect together the leaves in the garden. The lawn, for example, should always be free from leaves. Otherwise, the leaves will rob the lawn of light. This could result in unattractive yellow discoloration. It is also possible that fungal diseases will develop under the leaves.

There shouldn’t be any leaves floating in the garden pond either. If the leaves rot in the water, the pond will silt up bit by bit. In addition, the water will be enriched with nutrients by the rotting leaves. This promotes algae formation. So you should also carefully collect the leaves here, or use a preventative method and stretch a net over pond in late summer.

Leaves lying on paths or entrances quickly become a slipping hazard. The risk of slipping is particularly high when it is damp. You should remove the leaves quickly in particular if people with unsteady footing are using these paths.

However, collecting the leaves together with a rake is really laborious. On windy days in particular, a gust can undo all the work. The carefully piled leaf mountain is then blown in all directions by the wind.

Working with the Bosch leaf blower
Handheld leaf blowers such as the ALB 18 LI from Bosch here, make collecting the leaves together much, much easier.

It’s much quicker and also easier to collect the leaves with a leaf blower. Equipment such as the leaf blower ALB 18 LI from Bosch, for example, are handy and make the work much, much easier. It is battery powered and runs very quietly. The times of leaf blowers with combustion engines that were such a nuisance to the neighbours are long gone. And the battery devices are also very high-performance and, with their long run-time, also help to free large areas of the garden from leaves.


Always take care to work with the rake or leaf blower in the direction of the wind. Here, in the UK, a westerly wind prevails most frequently. Position yourself accordingly and the natural air movement will even help you to collect the leaves.

You can also always get rid of leaves on the lawn with a lawnmower, as well. Simply mow over all areas covered with leaves. The lawnmower chops up the leaves and collects them in the basket. This results in a mixture of chopped up leaves and lawn cuttings. It is a perfect mixture for the composter. It disintegrates particularly quickly.

Disposing of Leaves in the Composter

If you have a composter in your garden, you can dispose of the leaves from your garden there. You can find out how to make compost here. Just take care that you don’t fill it exclusively with leaves, and also not with too many.

Leaves contain a lot of carbon, but only a little nitrogen. This means the disintegrate very slowly. And if you layer too many leaves on top of each other, this also puts pressure on the lower layers. This means that very little oxygen reaches the leaves. However, oxygen is important for decay.

So you should mix the leaves with lawn cuttings, as mentioned above. Alternatively, you can also blend it in layers with horn meal, straw or compost accelerator. What’s more, you can mix in chopped up branches and twigs.  These rough components between the leaves ensure good aeration. This helps the leaves to decompose more easily.

Leaves with lawn cuttings
Mix the leaves with lawn cuttings. Then its fantastic in the composter. However, the leaves must come from the correct trees. @MSG/Folkert Siemens Prod.: Dieke van Dieken, Karina Nennstiel

Which Leaves Are Suitable for Composting?

Not all leaves are the same. The leaves of some trees are more suitable for composting than those from other plants.

The leaves from hornbeam, ash, hazelnut, rowan, acacia, willow, birch, acorn, beech, linden and native fruit trees are well suited for the composter.

Leaves from horse chestnut, walnut, plantain, poplar, ginkgo and oak trees are difficult to compost. The leaves contain a lot of tannic acid. Its germ-inhibiting effect slows the decomposition of the leaves. Therefore, you should compost leaves from these trees separately.

Collecting Leaves in Wire Mesh Baskets

More or less foliage will drop in the autumn, depending on the size of your garden. If it’s so much that it doesn’t all fit in your composter or organic waste bin, you can build a large leaf basket yourself with very little effort.

For this, take a rectangular wire section from some wire net fencing. Connect both ends in several places with wire. Ensure that the connection is secure enough. When you fill it with leaves later it must be able to hold up to the pressure. You must wear gloves when connected the two ends. The tips of the wire fencing are often pointed. Without gloves, you could easily hurt yourself on these.

Then place the basket with an open top and bottom somewhere in your garden where it can stay permanently. Next, fill it with the leaves collected with the leaf blower. The leaves will decompose much more slowly in the leaf basket than in the composter, however the wait is worth it: After about half a year, you will have half decomposed, pure leaf compost. You can use this to improve the soil or produce your own planting soil.

This is particularly low in lime in comparison to standard composts, and also has very few nutrients. So it’s great for you to use on strawberries, rhododendrons and other lime-sensitive plants.

Leaves in a wire basket
You can quickly and easily construct a collecting basket for leaves in your garden with wire mesh. The leaves can compost in this and decompose into high-quality fertilizer. @MSG/Folkert Siemens Prod.: Dieke van Dieken, Karina Nennstiel

Using Leaves as Mulch in the Garden

You can use leaves in the garden in other ways than just for composting. For example, you can use them as a mulch layer. For this, simply place the leaves under shrubs or on areas with groundcover plants.

Some varieties of groundcover are particularly leaf-hungry. These include various species of geranium. Exhibition flowers such as barrenwort also benefit enormously if you mulch them with leaves.

These plants generally grow in forests in nature. So they are used to the annual supply of leaves in the autumn. They simply grow through the leaves. The leaves decompose below the plant cover. The humus resulting from this then supplies the plant with nutrients.

Using Leaves as Mulch in a Kitchen Garden

If you have a vegetable plot or also a large plant bed in your garden in which you cultivate something in the spring and summer, you can also use leaves there.

Cover the plant bed in your kitchen garden with the gathered leaves. You can cover the leaves with well decomposed cow dung and thereby protect them from blowing away. But, the dung also has a further benefit: It contains a particularly high amount of nitrogen. This means it ensures fast leaf decomposition.

The leaves protect the bed in the autumn and winter, as well as against major temperature fluctuations. The soil life benefits from this. Work the mixture in on the surface in late winter, or dig it in with a spade. Particularly loamy soils benefit from this a lot. They then become much looser, contain more humus and no longer crust over as quickly in droughts.

Sandy soils are also improved. The combination of nutrients and humus makes them more fertile. These soils can also then retain moisture more readily and supply the plants more evenly.

Raspberries and blueberries develop better if you cover the soil under these berry shrubs with a thin layer of leaves in the autumn. These plants only grow naturally in the forest. Therefore, they develop particularly well in humus-rich, loose soils with an even water balance.

Mulching plant beds with leaves
Cover the beds in your garden with leaves. In this way you can protect the plants from very cold periods. @MSG/Frank Schuberth Prod.: Dieke van Dieken, Karina Nennstiel

Producing Leaf Mould

Some plants grow particularly well with special soils. These can either be acidic or also very high in nutrients. You can achieve this effect with slow composted autumn leaves.

If you have bog plant beds in the garden or berry bushes such as cranberries or blueberries, you can use an acidic soil with a pH value of around 4.5. You can obtain this by composting leaves from birches and oaks as well as conifer debris. The decomposition takes a while due to the high tannin content, but it is worth it.

For soil with a neutral pH value, as one with the value 7, add lime or rock flour to the leaves. In this way, you can neutralize the acid proportion and accelerate the decomposition.

Leaves as a Refuge for Hedgehogs

If you want to do the hedgehogs a favour, don’t dispose of or use all the leaves in your garden. Instead, create a small leaf pile in a wind and weather protected spot in your garden. Protect the leaves from blowing away with brushwood. Hedgehogs find a good hiding place in such leaf collections and are protected against predators.

Hedgehog in leaves
Leave a few leaves lying in the garden. In this way, you will create a refuge for animals, such as hedgehogs. @iStock/schulzie
Disposing of Leaves: the Best Tips for Autumn Leaves
Every year in the autumn, an abundance of leaves drop in the garden. We explain here the best ways to collect, dispose of or even use them in the garden.