‘Tis the season of colorful landscapes, on the trees and on the ground. While you may have a native hillside that flows through the cycles of the seasons without intervention, if you have a lawn with trees, the season equates to clean up time to avoid patchy grass caused by wet, matted leaves when spring rolls around. Although removing leaves is a part of autumn chores, you can choose to send them straight to the yard debris cart, bag them up for waste removal or give the leaves a second life around your home. Here are some inspiring ways to make the most of this fall’s natural material.
If you don’t already have a compost pile, fall is the perfect time to start. You don’t need to have a fancy compost bin, although it can harness the contents and increase efficiency. The process works naturally even if all you do is throw compost layers in the corner of the yard. Just remember it will break down best with thin layers of different kinds of materials. Include green layers such as grass clipping and organic material from the kitchen like vegetable peelings and wilted lettuce.
Related: 12 things you should never compost
Trees store much of their nutrient base in their leaves. By using your leaves as a mulch, those nutrients transfer to the soil and other plants, contributing to the cycle of nature. Instead of using large leaves, chop them smaller by using the mulch setting on your lawn mower. Simply “leaf” them on the ground and drive over them with the mower set a few inches above the ground. If the leaves are finely mulched, you can leave them on the grass as an additive for the growth period in the spring. However, any clumps of leaves will result in bald spots so make sure the mulch is lightly applied.
Leaf mulch can also be used to amend the soil in your garden beds. Apply it along with any fall fertilizers to balance out the nutrients. This will attract earthworms who will do the rest of the work in breaking down the materials into a rich soil for next season.
Also, apply leaf mulch to flower beds. This natural layer helps moderate ground temperature and water absorption. Plus, they do a great job of suppressing weed growth. Again, it’s best to run large leaves through a mulcher first. Use the leaf mulch around trees, berries, flowers, shrubs and other plants.
Thanksgiving table décor
Bringing the outdoors in is a quintessential part of the Thanksgiving tradition. Make a centerpiece with a carved out gourd or pumpkin as a candle holder and surround it with colorful dried leaves. Use more dried leaves to make placemats for family and guests. Simply cut a rectangle of clear shelf liner and press leaves onto the sticky side. Add names, kids’ handprints cut out of paper, stickers or other decorations and then cover with a top sheet, pressing the two pieces together. You can also have the kids help make place markers by writing guests names on dried leaves.
Another option for the centerpiece is to decoupage leaves to the outside of a canning jar. Adorn it with a ribbon made from a natural material like jute and place a candle inside.
Leaves are easy to source and easy to use for DIY wreath making. Create a circular wreath made entirely of leaves by feeding a needle with thread through the center of dozens of mostly-dried leaves. Once you’ve completed a long strand, use wire or rope to attach it to a wire wreath form.
For a different look, use large or small leaves to design a wreath by laying them flat on the form. Overlap the leaves as you work around the circle. Then adorn the leaf base with burlap ribbon, dried berries or other natural materials.
Make a banner
Dried leaves can be decorated any number of ways with markers, paints or layers of natural color from other leaves. Have a leaf-decorating party and display your fanciful creation by attaching them to a piece of rope with clothespins. Hang your dangling creation across the mantle or above the dining table.
You can also make a banner by cutting felt pieces into banner shapes or simply using fall-colored paper. To each piece attach pinecones, leaves, twigs and acorns into the shape of letters, with the final banner spelling out “Thanks” or “Thanksgiving.” Attach the pieces together by punching holes in the top to feed through rope or yarn.
Stuff a scarecrow
The outdoors might need a little seasonal attention too. Keep the leaves close to their source and spook away the wildlife with a scarecrow in your yard. Once you have the basic design in place, stuff your scarecrow’s clothing with copious amounts of leaves until you achieve the bulk you’re looking for. Top it with a burlap sack or paper bag, also stuffed with leaves, for the head.