Every Fall, the same situation arises - what to do with all those fallen leaves that we're given by Mother Nature. Enjoy the Fall color of course but plan the handling of the leaves to make for a "win-win" situation that saves you time, effort and money (they're a free gift, after all, with a whole lot of dormant value) Having the leaves hauled off to the landfill is the worst decision you can make. You'd be throwing away free, vital soil-building organic material and lots of free nutrients plants crave, and stores sell for $$$. Here's a better way.
Leaf Management Mistakes:
1. Leaves should never be blown, raked, put in bags and sent to the landfill.
2. Leaves should never be blown, raked, put into piles and set on fire.
3. Leaves should never be blown or raked into the storm sewers or streets.
4. Fallen leaves should be shredded into tiny pieces and put back on your lawn.
Correct Leaf Practices:
1. Mow and mulch them into the lawn. This reduces their volume by about 90% and, after a good rain, they'll disappear back into the soil, Using a mulching mower to shred is best but not essential. Lawns can take a large volume of leaves before there is excess. Excess leaves (or grass clippings) are when the lawn is about to be completely covered by the ground-up leaves.
2. At the point of excess, the leaves should still be mulched on the lawn or driveway, and then raked, picked up and distributed as mulch in flower beds and vegetables gardens.
3. Then, the remaining leaves that have been ground-up by the lawnmower can be put into the compost pile. Add dry molasses to the beds and the compost pile to help the material break down and become humus more efficiently. Use it at about 20 lbs. per 1000 sq ft.
4. Fallen leaves should never be removed from your yard. They're full of idle nutrients that aid the growth of future plants. They help loosen tight soil too - like most of north Texas has. Recycling organic matter on the property makes for healthier plants, water runoff and erosion are reduced, and less tax money has to be allocated to picking up and managing leaves and other organic matter. Your plants will grow better, too.
OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.