| Environmental Columns

Making the most of fallen leaves

Year after year, fall puts on a magnificent show of colours, both in the country and city. Once the leaves have fallen on your lawn, there are several eco-friendly ways to make use of them and preserve the natural role of this organic matter.

In the forest, plant leaves die in the fall and pile up on root systems to cover the soil and protect them from the harshness of winter, then serve as a nutrient for their mother plant when they begin to decompose in the spring. In this way, foliage is an essential nutrient for the tree or plant from which it has fallen. At home, this life cycle can be continued, which also reduces the volume sent to the compost site.

Leaf recycling: mimicking the natural leaf cycle

To preserve the ecological value of fallen leaves, we have to imitate their natural cycle (or almost) through leaf recycling. Leaves fall onto the lawn gradually. They can then be shredded using a mower with a specially designed blade for leaf recycling. If you choose this option, do not wait for the leaves to pile up; the mower will not be able to shred a blanket of leaves that is too thick. Dead leaves are rich in carbon and minerals, and are therefore a natural fertilizer for lawns and other garden plants.

Leaves can also simply be left on the lawn; they will be a welcome shelter for many insects and butterflies during the winter, and serve as nutritious food for birds in the spring. This said, too many wet leaves can smother the lawn. In this case, a portion of the leaves can be picked up.

Keeping leaves for the spring

Collecting leaves and storing them to prepare the soil for the spring is another way to make the most of fallen leaves. By collecting the leaves and leaving them to dry in a container or paper bag, this raw material can be used as mulch and spread at the foot of trees or in flowerbeds the following spring or fall. Some perennials survive the winter better if they are covered with leaves after the first or second frost.

Excess leaves can be put in the household compost bin or the organic waste bin. If you have a lot of leaves in your yard, once they are raked, they can be a very good addition to household compost. By keeping them in a box or bag, they can be added to the compost regularly to ensure a good balance between brown materials that are rich in carbon, such as leaves, twigs or paper fibres, and green materials that are rich in nitrogen, such as food waste or grass. If you don’t have a household compost bin, leaves are accepted in the green rolling bin at all times.

Lastly, you can also take advantage of municipal leaf collections. Refer to the collection guide for more information.