Nature creates a spectacular display in autumn as leaves turn vivid shades of yellow, red, orange and green before falling from the trees. Once they reach the ground, they can be put to great use in the garden, or turned into beautiful decorations and gifts as autumnal craft projects for adults and children alike. Here are our top 10 things to do with autumn leaves.

Too many leaves?

Offer your surplus leaves to family and friends or list on a marketplace site before consigning them to garden waste – gardeners will be especially keen to take them off your hands!

Fallen leaf crafts

Top tip

Soak leaves in glycerine mixed with water for 2-4 days to preserve them and make them last longer.

1. Dried autumn leaf wreath

Creating a seasonal wreath like this one is quicker and easier than you might think - it only took me about 40 minutes. Remember that the bowl you use will determine the size of the finished wreath.

You will need

  • Cardboard
  • Large bowl
  • Pen or pencil
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Leaves
  • Ribbon or twine

How to make

  1. To make the base for your wreath, place the bowl upside down on the cardboard and draw around it, then turn the bowl the other way up and draw around its base to make a smaller circle in the middle of the first. I used an old cardboard box and a mixing bowl from the kitchen. 
  2. Glue one end of each individual leaf to the ring. It doesn't matter where or which side you start from. Carefully layer them so that they're overlapping and no cardboard is showing. For an impressive luxury look, pack your leaves tightly together. When you're almost finished, you'll need to tuck the last leaves carefully under the first.  
  3. Loop some ribbon or twine through the centre or glue to the back of the wreath and use to hang. Add a co-ordinating bow to make your wreath look extra special.
Be creative!

Experiment with leaves of different sizes, shapes and colours to find designs you like. 

2. Colourful leaf lantern

Create your own unique lighting with an autumnal jar that can be used for fairy lights or as a candle holder. It’s quick and easy to make but so effective and can be a lovely gift too.

You will need

  • Glass jar
  • Leaves
  • Glue 
  • Ribbon

How to make

  1. Glue the leaves to the outside of the jar. Overlap them slightly but try to keep them in a single layer where possible so the light can shine through and bathe your room in a golden glow.
  2. Leave to dry, then tie with a pretty ribbon or twine for the perfect finishing touch before adding your candle or fairy lights. 

3. Seasonal suncatcher

This autumn leaf suncatcher is simple to put together but looks wonderful when the sun shines through it. Arranged well, your leaves can look like a work of art even on rainy days! Go for a minimalist look with two or three leaves from the same tree or pack in lots of colours and shapes for extra impact.

You will need

  • Double sided glass photo frame
  • Leaves

How to make

  1. Decide how you want to arrange your leaves, then lay them on one piece of glass.
  2. Lay the other piece of glass on top. Tiny dabs of glue or bits of tape may help if your leaves are proving slippery!
  3. Put the glass back inside the frame and hang in a sunny window.  
Where to find fallen leaves

If you don't have a glut in your garden, look out in streets and parks near you or ask your neighbours. Still can't find any? Make your own from paper!

4. Wall hanging

Smaller leaves work really well for this project - look out for bright field maple, hawthorn and silver birch leaves.

You will need

  • Small piece of wood
  • Twine for hanging
  • Invisible thread, cotton or glue
  • Needle
  • Leaves

How to make

  1. Lay your leaves out in different patterns on a flat surface to decide how you want your wall hanging to look.
  2. Secure the twine to both ends of the wood and tie lengths of cotton or invisible thread along the wood.
  3. Use the needle to sew a single stitch through each leaf, or glue each leaf rather than stitching if you prefer.

5. Children's crafts

Keep the kids occupied with 11 leaf crafts that are all child-friendly!

Enjoy more nature-themed DIY projects

How to use fallen leaves in the garden

6. Lend wildlife a helping hand

One of the simplest and most useful things to do with fallen leaves is to make a pile in an unused area of your garden for wildlife. This warm, safe space can provide crucial shelter for a variety of species through winter, including caterpillars, ladybirds, toads and hedgehogs. This leaf litter is also important food for fungi and all kinds of minibeasts, from spiders to centipedes.

Did you know?

Evergreen leaves take longer to break down than those of deciduous trees, so it's worth putting them in separate piles if you have both.

7. Make leaf mould

Its name might not sound very appealing but leaf mould is garden gold. As well as improving the structure and water retention of soils, it attracts organisms that boost soil health.

Making leaf mould is easy, with no turning or mixing needed - just gather your leaves into a wire container or bag with air holes and keep them damp, adding more water as they dry out. Leaves from native trees like ash, birch, cherry and oak are among the fastest to decompose - in 6-12 months, the crumbly, compost-like material will be ready to dig into your soil, use for mulching or add to potting mixes. 

8. Shred and use as mulch

For faster results than making leaf mold, simply shred leaves and apply them straight to your beds and borders as a mulch. Mulching is great for the garden, helping to protect plants from the elements, suppress weeds, retain soil moisture and keep worms - a gardener's best friend - safe from hungry birds. A natural mulch like fallen leaves will improve soils too, returning nutrients to the ground as they break down.

Leaves should be shredded to allow some air and water to get through to soil and plants. Add a layer of shredded leaf material 2-3 inches thick, avoiding plant stems. 

9. Add to your compost heap

Another quick and easy way to dispose of an abundance of fallen leaves is to add them to your compost bin or heap. Moist leaves are a great brown material to combine with fresher green materials for homemade compost. Mixed together and turned once a month to let air in, you'll have nutrient-rich compost for your garden in no time.

Take care not to add too many leaves at once if you don't have enough green material to balance it out. Just store the extra leaves nearby and add them when needed.

10. Feed your lawn

If leaves are falling straight onto your lawn, you can simply mow over the top of them. This doesn't just solve the issue of excess leaves - it's actually good for the lawn. The mower chops them into small pieces so they can slide between the blades of grass and decompose back into the soil, adding nutrients for a healthy lawn through winter and into spring. Only mow when dry and before too many leaves accumulate though - leaving soggy material or a thick layer of chopped leaves sitting on your lawn will have the opposite effect.

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