This is a guest post by homesteader, Alicia Owen

Autumn LeavesMany Hoosiers agree that fall is one of their favorite times of the year in Indiana. Mild days with cool nights make for perfect pumpkin-picking and campfire weather. Those hoodies and sweaters hanging forgotten in the closet can finally be broken out again. Picturesque countrysides filled with vibrant oranges, reds, and yellows that turn into swirling whirlwinds of leaves cascading down…into your yard.

Ah, yes, the dreaded leaf litter. Some people couldn’t care less about the piles of leaves on their lawn, classifying them as free fall décor. For others, loose leaves become the bane of their existence this time of year.

If you can’t stand seeing leaves scattered carelessly all over your yard, I’m going to give you some ideas for taking care of them that will actually benefit the rest of your landscape!

Mulch Them

Chop them up with your lawnmower and then rake them up. Or, if you’re fortunate and have a mower with a bag attachment, that would obviously save you some time and labor. There are plenty of things you can do with your leaf mulch. You can do all of the things below with mulched or non-mulched leaves, though some of them do work better with the mulched.

Use Them as Winter Garden Cover

We are all aware of how great organic matter is for gardens. Leaves breaking down over winter makes great food for your garden. Set a layer of leaves on your garden in the fall and don’t worry about it until next spring

There is the matter of wind blowing them away—this is Indiana, after all. If you don’t mind a little extra work, take all of those old Amazon boxes you’ve been meaning to recycle, lay them on top of the leaves, strategically place some heavy rocks on top to hold them down and you’re good to go!

Aside from keeping your leaves from blowing away to the far reaches of the east coast, it will help kill any current weeds and help keep them from growing before you get your garden ready next year!

Winterize Individual Plants

You may have a few stray plants around your yard that could use some extra love during the harsh winter months. In our case, it’s mostly berry bushes and vines. You may have some nice perennials in your landscaping courtesy of the Greenscape Geeks crew that you want to help protect. Regardless of what type of plant it is you’re wanting to help out, a layer of leaves around the base can help insulate it during Indiana winters.

The way we have our blueberry bushes planted, we ended up with very thick layers of leaves that collected around their bases the first year. I truly believe it helped them survive the winter.

One thing I should note from personal experience is that you will want to remove the leaves as soon as possible when it starts warming up or risk handfuls of ants when you go to weed.

Use in Compost Bin/Pile

This kind of goes along with the whole layering it on your garden bit from above. If you don’t feel like going through the hassle of covering your garden leaves up with cardboard, simply use them in your compost bin! Mixed with lawn clippings and the right kinds of food scraps, amongst other things, you’ll have some great black gold fertilizer for your garden and landscaping by next spring!

Make a Bug Hotel

I know what you’re thinking. You want to get rid of the leaves somehow (or at least get them out of sight), not have them hanging around all winter. And why on Earth would you want to attract bugs? Hear me out.

You don’t have to have huge leaf piles taking up your entire yard. You can make a few small one that are spread out, but make sure these piles are away from your house, or you’ll end up with a bunch of chipmunks, mice, etc hanging out over winter. The tenants you do want over winter are beneficial bugs. Worms, of course, love munching on decaying matter, such as dead leaves. Ladybugs like their winter vacation in leaf piles as well and are fantastic to have around for any aphid problems you may encounter. Aphids are one of their favorite things to dine on.

As you can see, there are plenty of more useful things you can do with your leaves this fall than blowing them out in the street or bagging them up to be disposed of. If you’re going to bag them up, you might as well put them in one of those cute pumpkin trash bags or the giant spider kind for cheap Halloween decorations, right?

Which is your favorite method above? Have you tried any of them yourself in the past? Tell us about it in the comments below or on Greenscape Geeks’ social media!