The clocks have changed, the temperature outside is getting cooler and our lawns are covered with leaves; yup, fall is officially in full swing here in the Northeast.  Now the question is, “what should we do with all of our fallen leaves?”

There are many who choose to do nothing at all with their leaves on their lawns; they simply leave them where they fall and Mother Nature handles the rest.  This is a viable solution if you can still see your lawn through the leaves, if you can’t see the grass then it won’t receive any of the nutrients it needs in order to survive the cold winter.  When the layer of leaves on your lawn is too thick the sunlight and water won’t be able to get through to nourish the grass throughout the winter and your yard won’t be looking good next spring.  To remedy this problem, you can simply rake up a few piles and then run them over with your lawn mower.  Not only does shredding them help to speed up the decomposition process while they are sitting on your lawn but it also allows the lawn to receive the light and water it needs in order to survive our often frigid winter temperatures.

If you do not have a composting bin or pile at your house, fall is great time to start.  The fallen leaves are perfect to add to your pile as they are full of rich carbons your pile needs to be happy and healthy.  They will break down faster if you shred them with your lawn mower first, after that just pick them up and add them to your pile, making sure that you are also adding nitrogen-rich materials to balance out the carbon you are adding when you throw in the leaves.  Give the pile a turn a couple of times a week and pretty soon (it will take about 8 weeks or so before you will notice that the original ingredients you threw in are no longer recognizable and the color has turned dark) your compost will be ready to go.

You can also compost leaves on their own if you choose.  Just make a big pile roughly 3x3x3 (it helps to add a layer of dirt for every 1 foot of leaves to help the pile breathe) and cover it with a tarp (weighted down on the edges with rocks to keep the water out) and in 4 to 6 months you’ll have a great dark and crumbly, FREE material to add to your soil before planting in the late spring.

If you choose to go the raking and bagging route you can make it a fun activity for the whole family.  It can be great exercise and the kids always have loads of fun playing the big piles of leaves, plus it provides you with a great opportunity to get a snapshot for the family photo album.  Or, if you’re like my dad was when I was kid, if I got into trouble this time of year, do you know what my punishment would be?  You guessed it, raking and bagging all those leaves in the yard.

The kids can also have fun making crafts with leaves or finding ways to make playing with them fun.  Here is a link to an article that discusses 20 different leaf crafts and activities for kids; some are really quite creative, I had never thought of making a maze from leaves before, that’s sure to be a kid-pleaser!

Once you have all of the leaves bagged you can take them to your local yard trim drop-off facility where they will be turned into compost that will often times be provided to residents free of charge or at least at a price much cheaper than retail.  If you live in Harford County there are 2 places where you can take all of your yard trimmings (not just leaves in the fall):

  • The Harford Waste Disposal Center’s Mulch & Compost Facility located on Scarboro Rd in Street, MD from 7AM to 3PM Monday through Saturday
  • 703 N. Tollgate Rd. in Bel Air on Saturdays from 7AM until 3PM right next to the Ma & Pa Trail parking lot

If you want to save your leaves to use as compost in the future you can bag them and set them aside for next year.  Make sure they are a little moist and that the bags have holes for aeration and after about a year you will have a great material to supplement your garden soil.  It is also a good idea to save a few bags of carbon-rich leaves from the fall to mix with all of the nitrogen-rich “greens” you will be adding to your compost pile in the spring.  By doing this now you’ll save yourself the headache of gathering those “browns” you’ll need in the spring to make the perfect compost.

You can also pick up your leaves and use them as mulch and insulation for bare gardens or bushes over the winter.  They will provide enough protection to keep the ground insulated and as they decompose they will feed the earth beneath them.

Burning your leaves is never a good idea.  Not only could you unintentionally start a fire but the air pollution caused from burning leaves is worse than burning coal according to the American Lung Association and that can cause a whole heap of respiratory problems.

Follow this link to complete our survey and let us know what you plan on doing with your leaves this fall.

If you need composting help be sure to give us a call, and we will be happy to steer you in the right direction.

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