Fall leaf management
Send a link to a friend
[October 29, 2008]
With a little bit of wind, or a lot of wind,
this past weekend, the leaves have begun dropping in large numbers.
This brings up one of those age-old questions: "What do I do with
all those leaves?" The simple answer is to give you three options:
leave them (no pun intended), remove them, or chop them up.
If you decide to let nature take its course, letting leaves lie
brings benefits and some problems. Many of the benefits are
associated with your labor, or lack of it. The major non-labor
benefit is when leaves collect in flower beds and around shrubs to
provide a mulch for those plants. Problems generally develop where
deep piles of leaves may smother grass or harbor diseases, causing
large dead areas to deal with next spring. Of course, if you are the
only resident in a neighborhood who doesn't rake leaves, you may be
talked about at many social functions this fall.
Removing leaves is generally done by raking or bagging with a
mower attachment. This makes your lawn look neat, prevents
problems for lawns and gives you a workout if you are manually
raking. The main problems are the time, labor and disposal of
the leaves when they are piled.
Chopping leaves means reducing
the size. Benefits include less smothering, quicker breakdown
and less labor. The main drawback comes with deep piles that
still should be removed because of trouble in shredding and
One thing to consider is the type of leaves. There is a huge
difference in oak leaves and silver maple leaves. It's difficult
to have smothering problems with oak leaves, while silver maple
leaves may smother with a very thin layer. Many green leaves
were blown down Sunday with the high winds. These green leaves
will tend to smother more than the dry, rigid types will.
What do you do with the leaves you've accumulated? There are
several possibilities. Many municipalities, Lincoln included,
prohibit burning for the most part. Besides the fire risk, the
respiratory issues for affected people can be life-threatening.
Raking leaves into the street, unless requested by the city for
cleanup, usually results in clogging storm sewers. Options
remaining include composting, using as a mulch, tilling into
garden and bed areas, and hauling to the city landscape
recycling dump. There may even be some private collection
services that will take bagged leaves to a recycling center.
[to top of second column]
Partial composting, and the subsequent use as a mulch, is one of the
best solutions. Simply construct an enclosure at least 2 feet cubed,
place leaves in it, and cover the top with hardware cloth or wire
laid on it and weighted down. The resulting mulch may be used next
spring on flower beds, gardens, around trees and shrubs, or spread
back on gardens or lawns.
One thing to consider is removing the leaves from around the
foundation of the house. The decaying leaves provide a hiding place
or food sources for nuisance pests such as ladybugs and millipedes.
The removal from directly around the house may reduce the number of
these insects making their way into your home.
University of Illinois Extension, Logan County]