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Fall Clean-Up and How to Make Leaf Mold

(This post was written in collaboration with Ryobi but all thoughts and opinions are my own.) While fall clean-up can be a chore, it’s a great benefit to the beds when we collect the fallen leaves, make leaf mold compost and add it to the gardens. Learn how to make it here!

Are the leaves coming down a lot where you live too?

Ours have been coming down for a few weeks now, but seem to be coming down at a faster pace now.

As we head towards the first frost, it’s time to start preparing the gardens for winter. I can’t believe it’s almost that time already.

Part of preparing the garden for winter includes fall clean-up.

But what is fall clean up?

Fall clean-up typically includes:

To me, cleaning up the leaves on the lawn is SO much easier than picking them up around my garden plants.

My flower gardens are pretty extensive, so it is a lot of work to get the leaves out of all the beds.

Especially when they keep falling!

Standing in fallen leaves in autumn -Achieving Fall Color in the Garden with Foliage
Fallen leaves sprinkled throughout the garden before fall clean up -Fall Clean-Up and Making Leaf Mold Compost

But it is really important to get those leaves out because allowing them to stay can smother plants and promote pest and disease problems.

And nobody wants that!

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Garden blogger stacy ling with the ryobi vacattack

Fall Clean-Up with the Ryobi Vacattack

Ok the Ryobi Vacattack may just be my favorite power tool for fall clean up.

I love that I can pick up leaves around my plants and not feel like I’m crushing or damaging them.

The Ryobi Vacattack is pretty easy to maneuver, sucks up the leaves really well and collects them in this attached oversized bag.

But the best part?

It mulches those leaves down in the bag that I can later dump into a pile to make leaf mold.

Doing Fall Clean-Up with the ryobi vacattack
Garden blogger stacy ling doing Fall Clean-Up in the gardens with the ryobi vacattack
Gorgeous fall garden in the front yard with sedum autumn joy and garden mums

What is Leaf Mold?

When leaves decompose over time that creates leaf mold.

Composted leaves are a great soil amendment that is super easy to make and significantly improves garden soil quality.

Fall Clean-Up with stacy ling using the ryobi vacattack in her cottage garden

Leaf Mold vs. Compost

Compost is made when organic material like food scraps decompose over time.

The decomposition becomes what we gardener’s call “gold” because it is high in nutrients that enriches overall soil quality and promotes happy, healthy plants.

fall foliage with grasses and burning bush -Achieving Fall Color in the Garden with Foliage

When we add both leaf mold and compost to the garden, they improve overall plant health and bloom yield, while helping plants build immunity to disease.

I use both to feed my perennials, shrubs, and trees versus using fertilizer.

To me, feeding plants starts with really good soil quality as opposed to pumping them up with artificial nutrition.

fall gardens and curb appeal ideas with tan center hall colonial -Limelight Hydrangeas are the best fall flowers

Why Is Leaf Mold Good?

Unlike compost, leaf mold does not offer much in the way of soil nutrition.

But rather increases water retention and improves overall soil structure.

Since leaf mold is considered to be a soil conditioner, it helps plant roots stay cooler during hot, dry weather.

Here in New Jersey, that’s a huge benefit because the summer heat can be brutal.

So leaf mold helps plants stay hydrated.

home and garden blogger stacy ling hard at work using the ryobi vacattack to clean up fallen leavesFall Garden Clean-Up with the Ryobi Leaf Vac

How to Use Leaf Mold

After decomposition, dig leaf mold into beds or apply as a mulch.

It can be used in garden beds, but can also be added to planters to help keep them from drying out.

Regardless of how you use leaf mold, it’s so easy to make that it is a no-brainer when doing fall clean-up.

All you really need is a little bit of space to make it.

garden blogger stacy ling emptying the bag on the ryobi vacattack andWearing long sleeves, jeans, boots and gloves while working in the garden doing Fall Garden Clean-Up
The Ryobi Vacattack’s bag is easy to detach to open and dump mulched leaves.

How to Make Leaf Mold Compost

There are two ways to make leaf mold.

You can either make it in a pile or plastic garbage bags.

Depending on the space you have, one method might be preferable over the other.

The Pile Method

Pile leaves in a section of the yard or a bin that is about 3’x3′.

Dampen the leaf pile thoroughly, mix it up, then let it sit and do its magic.

Keep an eye on the pile though and add water when it dries out.

Decomposition can take anywhere from two to three years depending on the size of the leaves in the pile.

The Plastic Garbage Bag Method

Instead of making a pile, collect leaves in a plastic garbage bag.

Similar to the pile method, moisten the leaves in the bag, seal them, and cut a few holes to create airflow.

Then let it sit, but check it periodically to ensure it stays moist.

If leaves are dry, add more water.

Garden blogger stacy ling doing Fall Clean-Up on the deck using the ryobi vacattack
I even used the Ryobi Vacattack on our deck after we finished putting away all of the outdoor furniture and area rugs. It was so much easier using the Ryobi Vacattack here than blowing them off the deck and then having to clean the leaves up again from the ground.

The Benefit of Using the Ryobi Vacattack During Fall Clean-Up to Make Leaf Mold

With the Ryobi Vacattack’s mulching capability, the leaves will break down much quicker than if they were left fully intact.

Since the Ryobi Vacattack mulches leaves while doing fall clean up, you save time not having to do this in two separate steps.

And who wants to do something in two steps when you can do it all in one?

Cause the reality is, if I wasn’t using the Ryobi Vacattack, I would skip the mulching step altogether, pile leaves and just wait it out.

So the leaves would take a lot longer to decompose.

For me, using the Ryobi Vacattack for fall clean-up is a huge benefit because I will be able to make leaf mold that much faster.

And we all want things to be done faster. Amirite?

Garden Shed with the best fall garden flowers

Want to Learn How to Make the Best Compost Recipe?


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How to Make Leaf Mold with garden blogger stacy ling
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  1. Great post Stacy. This looks like an amazing tool for the garden! Wish I would have known about it before I did all that work in my yard. Hopefully next year!

    1. Thank you! It is pretty awesome – I love that it can get around the base of plants easily like roses so you can clean them out really easily! xo