Put those Fall leaves to work in your lawn, garden, and compost pile!
The annual custom of raking. bagging, blowing, and transporting leaves to the community brush pile costs each homeowner hours of time and money each Fall. Not to mention the carbon footprint of blowing and transporting them. It also robs your lawn from receiving a rich nutrient-filled supplement.
You have alternatives!
Leaves are packed with trace minerals that trees draw up from deep in the soil. Fallen leaves oxidize, slowly releasing a constant source of plant food year-round.
Ever notice how lush the forest is? The leaves are nature’s own food. They also keep the soil springy, moist, and porous.
Leaf mulching is simply chopping leaves into small pieces. This can be done with your mower set on the lowest setting. Passover the leaves until you achieved the desired size of shred.
As a mulch, the leaves will suppress weeds and improve soil quality. They improve water retention and loosen the soil. A 6-inch blanket of leaves will protect plants from the winter cold. Cover cold-hardy vegetables such as carrots, kale, leeks, and beets and you’ll be able to harvest them all winter.
Leaf mold may sound bad, but it’s not! Leaf mold is high in calcium and magnesium and retains 3-5 times its weight in water – it’s even better than peat moss!
Simply place the leaves in a compost bin and leave them for 1-3 years. The fungus will have broken them down to smell like a walk in the woods.
Leaves can be used to insulate around your winter compost tumbler/pile and are handy to add to the mix as carbon, balancing your kitchen scraps (nitrogen) ingredients.
Leaves provide a sustaining life source for various critters. Animals ranging from turtles and toads to birds, mammals, and invertebrates depend on falling leaves for food, shelter, and nesting material. Moth and butterfly caterpillars will winter on the leaves before emerging in the Spring.
Know your tree species. Walnut, eucalyptus, and camphor laurel leaves contain substances that will hinder plant growth. It is best to compost these leaves in with your food scraps before adding them to your garden.
You will spend less time raking and more time enjoying the beautiful Fall weather and leaf colors!
Contact West Central Iowa Solid Waste for more tips on recycling and waste disposal.