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autumn leaves good mulch or not?

essex, England Eng

i have just been thinking recently, i have leaves everywhere in my garden. obviously i have swept the lawn and bagged up the leaves to make compost for next year, but what about the leaves that have fallen on beds, i guess i am looking at this in two ways i could leave them where they are to offer protection from frost to bulbs and perennials, and let nature take its course as i do have quite a lot of bare ground in my beds as they are all new. the other way of looking at it,- it does look untidy, and is it true they can cause damage to some plants during the rotting down process? also the weeds get chance to get going under there without me seeing them - i could collect them all and compost them and use bark to protect my bulbs and perennials looks nicer - but costs a lot more as none of my own compost is ready yet, what are all your thoughts on this? - have done it both ways in the past and both have been effective, but only in my tiny postage stamp of a garden that we had at our flat before we moved here. but in this garden i have been much more sellective with plants and don't want to loose them.



In a small garden then collecting the leavres from beds is a reasonable option. However in a garden the size of ours we just do not have the time. We use a blower to remove them from the grass areas on to the borders and there they stay. They do not seem to do any damage to the plants underneath except for those which are winter growers. Those we do remove the leaves from, if we remember. I would not say that we have lost any plants because of this, in fact the frost protection means we have kept some of them!

18 Nov, 2007


I can't give any reasons why mulching with fresh leaves would be a bad idea.

However, a more conventional approach is to mulch with leaf mould - that is, leaves that have composted for a year. I suppose there must be reasons for doing it this way. It looks easier than normal composting.

18 Nov, 2007


I'm with owdboggy on this. In general, I leave the leaves on borders over winter and then rake them off when all the perennials are cut back in early spring. However, some plants resent having wet necks over winter and rot off - achilleas come to mind; I also clear leaves from bearded iris rhizomes. Having said that, I read somewhere that removing all the fallen leaves this year will allow the birds to get in and eat all the young slugs

18 Nov, 2007


I do remove leaves from precious plants that might get eaten by slugs and snails hiding under the rotting leaves, but it's impossible to get every one off in a large garden. That's another good reason for logging where you plant things, in order to rescue them.

18 Nov, 2007


thanks guys, as ever really great advice, my garden is not huge so i think i will remove the leaves and compost them, and give my plants a treat with some composted bark mulch instead, i do get a lot of slugs in my garden and plenty of birds too so would make sense to kill 2 birds with one stone lol (forgive the pun!) once again many thanks - you've all been really helpful.

19 Nov, 2007

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