Nature presents us with more fallen leaves than we can count every single year. Some of us curse because of the mess, others count our blessings. The reason is that by allowing fallen leaves to become leaf mulch, you can have a free, natural source of nutrients and organic matter for your garden or surrounding landscape.
Fresh leaf mulch is lightweight, but it tends to weave together and doesn’t blow away as much as you might think. If your weather tends to be windy, and it becomes a problem, you can cover the leaf mulch to partially contain it. You can use anything from protection netting to heavier mulch or even landscape wood chips.
Does leaf mulch get blown away?
If leaf mulch is lightweight, there can be a problem with it blowing away. If it’s been shredded, by a lawnmower, for example, it won’t be quite as light. Then, once the mulch decomposes, you won’t have this problem.
So, you will realize that mulch isn’t simply mulch. It takes several different forms.
Similarly, there are different ways that you can use leaf mulch. Rhonda Ferree from the University of Illinois Extension has some excellent tips.
Note that these are not the same as the tips we suggest below to prevent your mulch from blowing away.
Recycle Leaves as Mulch
Ferree is a strong believer in homemade leaf mulch. She uses a mechanized chipper, shredder, and vacuum combination tool to pick up the leaves and shred them.
There is no argument that once the leaves have been mowed or shredded they will decompose much quicker. They will also stay in place better than unshredded leaves.
However, some people don’t bother with shredding. If your area isn’t subjected to lots of wind, you will find that unshredded leaves will mat together quite nicely.
The downside is that they can slow down decomposition because water and air can’t filter through that easily.
Mow the Leaves & Leave As Is
If there is a very light covering of leaves on your lawn, you should be able to mow them when you mow the grass. While it’s best to use a special mulching mower, you can use a normal lawn mower as well.
Leave the mown grass and leaves where they are and let them break down naturally. This easy-to-make mulch will add lots of nutrients to your garden landscape.
Collect & Work into Garden Beds
If you don’t want to leave leaves where they are – shredded or otherwise – you can collect them and work them into your garden beds. Ferree recommends doing this in the fall, so they decompose before spring when you want to plant.
It’s a great strategy for improving the soil in garden beds where you plant annuals or veggies. A good way to collect leaves is with a leaf blower that pushes them all into one area.
If you have sandy soil, tilling leaves into the soil will improve its ability to hold nutrients and water. If you have heavy clay soil, they will improve drainage and help to aerate the soil.
Compost the Leaves
Mulch is essentially the first step to composting fallen leaves. So, instead of using leaves as mulch that will break down where they are, you can add them to your compost heap.
Otherwise, stick to leaf mulch and let it form compost where it is as it decomposes.
5 Quick Tips to Prevent Your Mulch from Blowing Away
These tips are designed to prevent lightweight leaf mulch from blowing away. Once it decomposes, you won’t have to do anything much.
Here are five of our favorite tips.
Shredding the Leaves
We’ve mentioned shredding already, and it really is a straightforward way to stop leaf mulch from blowing away.
Shred the leaves before you use them as mulch. Not only will this stop mulch from blowing away, but it also helps to hasten the decomposition process. This is large because it allows air and water to penetrate the mulch.
There are various types of mulch netting that you can use to keep leaf mulch in place. The best are made from biodegradable materials that will eventually decompose, just like the leaves.
Jute and coir are good examples. But you can also use netting made from polypropylene or other synthetic materials.
Whatever netting you decide to use, make sure you overlap any joins. Also, keep it in place with pegs or some other type of holder.
Moisture & Soil
It stands to reason that if you wet your leaf mulch it is more likely to stay in place. Just don’t be tempted to flood it.
Even if there aren’t high winds predicted, it’s not a bad idea to sprinkle your leaf mulch with a bit of water. This will also help the mulch to decompose.
Sticks & Branches
Hold your leaf mulch in place with short branches cut from an evergreen tree. You can hold these down with trellis sticks.
Once the leaves start to decompose, they won’t be blowing anywhere.
Mix Leaf Mulch with Other Mulch Types
Mix leaf mulch with heavier mulch types like wood chip mulch or landscape wood chips. This will usually do the trick very quickly.
Adding a layer of organic compost on top of your leaf mulch will also make it heavier and less likely to blow away. Straw mulch is also relatively lightweight, but it can help.
Things that can shield your mulch from strong winds
Probably the most obvious solution is to make some kind of windbreak in your landscape area. But it can be challenging if you get the wind blowing from different directions.
If it doesn’t stop blowing it will be even more of a challenge. Also, you will need a reasonably solid barrier for it to be effective.
Long-term shield solutions like trees, shrubs, and bushes work well. But you will need time for them to establish.
Walls and fences can also be effective.
Using fallen leaves to make mulch is a great way to improve soil nutrients and protect seedlings as they grow. But you will need to ensure they don’t blow away before decomposing.
Our garden tips will help you.