How Are You Going to Dispose of Your Fall Leaves?

— Written By Bill Hanlin and last updated by JoAnne Gryder

fall leavesLooking out my office window, I can see that many trees are beginning to drop their leaves. I can also see some lawns where the homeowner has yet to take action and leaves cover the grass. Leaves on the lawn are not only unattractive, but fallen leaves can also hurt grass survival.

The standard way to eliminate leaves is to either rake or blow the leaves into a pile and have someone haul them off. However, in most areas it is illegal to put leaves into the local landfill. Many municipalities also have a ban on burning leaves.

Probably the most common way to deal with fallen leaves is to compost them. Composted leaves tend to break down very quickly and the resulting compost is very beneficial to landscape plants and gardens. When incorporated into the soil the compost improves soil structure and water holding capabilities. Shredding leaves, by using a mower with a bag attachment, will cause the leaves to break down more rapidly then whole leaves.

Another way to deal with unwanted leaves is to literally mow them into the turf. Mulching mowers can break leaves down into small particles that break down rapidly. When using a mulching mower, make sure that no residue is left on top of the lawn, as this will also block photosynthesis.

Evergreen plants retain their leaves during the wintertime and they also need some attention. Mulching around these plants will help reduce winter stress on the trees. Also remember that evergreen plants still need adequate moisture, so watering during dry periods in the winter may be advisable.

A Guide to Managing Organic Yard Waste is located at https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/pdf/ag-467.pdf  or contact the Wilkes Cooperative Extension office at 336-651-7330, and we can mail you a copy of this publication.