During the winter months, many gardeners can be seen raking up the fallen leaves in their gardens. These leaves are frequently used as mulch to provide nutrients to the soil in garden beds. The wind often scatters these leaves, but how do you keep leaf mulch from blowing away?
Mix leaf mulch with other mulch such as wood chips or bark that are heavier. Place netting on top of the leaf mulch. Shred the leaf mulch so it becomes dense and won’t blow away. Place wind breaks and shrubs to protect leaf mulch from the wind.
As the leaf mulch decomposes, the nutrients and organic matter make the soil fertile and improve the soil structure for optimal drainage. Allowing the wind to blow this goodness away should not be an option.
Read on to find out what we can do to help this garden-friendly mulch from blowing away in the wind.
Why keep leaf mulch from blowing away?
Adding leaf mulch to your garden beds has several beneficial factors, such as preventing weeds from growing, improving water retention, providing shelter for earthworms, and being organic and eco-friendly.
These leaves are a good source of nutrients that they have already absorbed from the tree’s roots and are high in carbon taken from the air.
1. Use netting to protect the leaf mulch
Netting is a very effective method of securing leaf mulch to the ground. It is not too expensive, and the materials are biodegradable and will eventually decompose, so they are environmentally friendly. These material types are Jute, Coir or polypropylene plastic netting, and synthetic materials.
Before laying the netting, rake the mulch evenly over the ground and around the plants. Place the netting over the mulch, allowing for at least 6 inches of overlapping where you might have to join the net. Also, lay the net in the boundary areas where there might be vegetation and at the edge of the bedding.
Secure each patch of netting evenly with corner pegs or holders. Netting will provide leaf mulch with a barrier against the wind.
2. Use moisture on the leaf mulch
Using moisture is an easy way to weigh down the leaf mulch and prevent it from blowing away. Rake the leaves evenly on the ground and water thoroughly with a water nozzle and hose. The water will bind the leaves together.
If high winds are forecasted in your area, use sprinklers to wet the leaves so they will settle in the soil and will not blow away.
3. Mix leaf mulch with other mulch types
You can mix leaf mulch with other mulches to enhance the nutritional value and offer protection against the wind.
We can mix the following mulches with leaf mulch:
- Add a layer of bark or tree mulch on top of the leaves. The different sized pieces will make the leaves heavier and hold them down not to be blown away in the wind.
- Adding a layer of compost on top of the leaves will make the mixture denser and also heavier.
I asked fellow gardeners some of their tips to keep leaf mulch from blowing away. Below are the results of the survey showing different possible ways to do this.
4. Use sticks and branches on the leaf mulch
An excellent method to anchor leaves to the ground would be to lay branches from trees on top of the leaf mulch. Collecting large sticks and laying them on top of the leaves will also weigh them down and prevent the wind from blowing them away.
5. Shred the leaves before using as mulch
Shredded leaves are much easier to work with when applying them as mulch to your garden beds. By shredding the leaves, they will not only be less likely to blow away, but will also decompose much faster into humus, a rich organic matter.
When using large leaves as mulch, they form a thick layer on the ground, turning the soil anaerobic (without air), making the soil soggy and susceptible to mold and disease. Thick layers of leaves can block air and water from penetrating the soil, or it could lock in too much moisture and potentially damage the plants.
Shredding the leaves can be done in two ways.
Shred the leaves using a lawn mower
Using a lawnmower is an easy way to shred leaves:
- Lay the leaves out on the lawn
- Remove the catcher from the lawnmower
- Run the mower 2 or 3 times over the leaves and shred them into small pieces
- Attach the catcher to the mower and pick up the shredded leaves
- If preferred, you could rake the leaves into a pile and move them to the garden with a wheelbarrow.
Shred the leaves using a leaf-blower attachment
Shredding and collecting the leaves will be a breeze if you have a leaf-blower with a mulching attachment.
Many leaf-blowers have a shredding function, a large nozzle to gather the leaves and a collection bag. This method is the simplest way of shredding and collecting leaves in one action.
6. Use windbreaks to protect the leaf mulch
Create windbreaks in your garden to protect leaf mulch from the wind. Determine the direction the wind is likely to blow and erect the windbreak there as the wind will blow against this structure. Windbreaks could be the erection of fences and walls or screens made of steel, timber, or oxy-metal for a more modern look.
Planting wind barriers such as fast-growing conifers on the side of your garden will block the prevailing wind and protect the leaf mulch from blowing away.
7. Arrange the garden before using leaf mulch
Your garden’s shape and build will determine how well leaf mulch is protected from the wind. To allow the mulch to stay on the ground, creating build-up edges will effectively offer protection from wind and heavy rain.
Create a bed with raised edges from concrete, bricks, aluminum, wood, or sandstone. Be creative and use these materials to make your beds look neat and attractive, and keep the leaf mulch in place. If you prefer to use the natural soil as a raised edge, use a shovel to scrape the soil upward at an angle and create a raised ridge around your garden bed.
Planting low-growing shrubs in the leaf mulch will act as a breaker against the wind. Planting these shrubs close together will prevent the wind from blowing over the beds. The mulch will not move around too much as the plants stop it.
Planting climbing beans, raspberries, passion fruit vine, and other climbing plants on a trellis will also create a windbreak for the leaf mulch. Low-growing ground cover plants will anchor the mulch with their roots. You could plant sweet woodruff, creeping thyme, periwinkle, ice plant, and coral bells as ground covers in your garden beds.
Perimeter edge plants such as hostas, dwarf species of ornamental grasses, and stonecrops grow to a maximum of 6″ to 24″ tall and are perfect as edging plants. These plants act as a barrier at the edge of the beds to stop the wind from reaching the leaf mulch.