Our yard is about to be covered with maple and oak leaves. Can leaves be used as mulch in flower and vegetable beds?
All those trees that are turning brilliant colors are about to flame out and drop their leaves to the ground. Yes, most of them can be used as mulch, and they can benefit your beds. Here are some guidelines for using leaves as mulch from the UT/TSU Extension office:
*Use a 3- to 4-inch layer of shredded leaves around trees and shrubs in annual and perennial flower beds. Notice they suggest “shredded.” Leaves that have been chopped up will decompose faster. They also will, no doubt, stay in place better than whole leaves if a gusty wind comes along.
*Oak leaves may change the pH of the soil over time, making it more acidic, so you may have to apply lime to maintain a favorable number. If your beds are mulched primarily with oak leaves, you should have the soil tested about every three years. Oak leaves are also tougher and decompose more slowly, so it’s especially important to chop them before you use them to cover your perennial beds. Otherwise, when spring comes, a thick layer of oak leaves could smother emerging plants.
*Leaves can be mixed into kitchen garden beds and in beds where you plant annual flowers. Most of the leaves will decompose before planting time next spring. A bonus: if you have heavy clay soil, a thick layer of leaves tilled into the soil will improve the soil structure. Free mulch, plus better soil: win-win.