Leaves-Trash or Treasure
While bagging for curbside garbage pickup is an option, it is not the best way to go. The problem is that all those bags of leaves from across the community fill up the landfill space a lot faster than necessary. With the high cost of locating and creating new landfills, we want to make existing landfills last as long as possible. Remember, the costs are always passed on to the end user!
One option some folks take is to do nothing and just let the leaves remain all winter. This is not good our southern grasses. A dense layer creates a dark, damp, stagnant zone where diseases can proliferate, harming the turf.
Burning is not a good option either. People who suffer from allergies or asthma often find that burning leaves aggravates symptoms and makes breathing difficult. .
Mowing Leaves: Mowing the leaves in place is the easiest and most simple means of disposal. Many folks seem hesitant to recycle leaves back into the lawn, fearing they will create thatch or other problems. But research done in many parts of the country has shown that mowing leaves into the lawn does not cause any problems. .
The best results are obtained by using a mulching mower which cuts and recuts leaves several times. The smaller the pieces, the quicker the microbes, which are active all year 'round, can attack and break down the leaves into humus. You may need to make 2 or more passes over larger tree leaves to get a finely shredded product. I find it easier to not wait until all the leaves are off the trees and on the ground. The deeper the layer, the more difficult it is to get them all shredded. .
Sheet composting: An option for garden areas is to place a layer of shredded leaves over the surface of the soil and let them decompose in place. A thin layer of cotton seed meal will speed the decomposition. Alternatively, you can also rototill the layer of leaves into the soil. .
Mulching: This is a great way to deal with excess leaves. One option is to place leaves in the pathways of your garden and flower bed. They will decompose in place, reduce weed problems, and enrich the soil, all at the same time. Another use for shredded leaves is as a layer of mulch in perennial and shrub beds, and around the base of young trees. Just make sure that larger leaves are shredded first. Large leaves when wet can mat into a nearly impermeable layer, restricting air and water movement. .
Traditional composting: Large amounts of leaves and other organic matter can be recycled by creating contained or freestanding piles. The resulting product is perfect for adding to and enriching the soil in just about every gardening project. .
Gathering a mix of shredded leaves and grass clippings is an easy way to obtain ingredients to help make an active compost. The feedstock for an active compost must include both high carbon and high nitrogen materials. Dried winter leaves are very high in carbon, but low in nitrogen, while green grass clippings are much higher in nitrogen. Research conducted at Rutgers University by Dr. Peter Strom indicates a mix of 2-3:1 (leaves to grass clippings) as being the optimum for decomposition in the compost pile. .
Since grass clippings are not abundant at this time of year, many composters stockpile leaves now, and then use them in the spring and summer when clippings are more available. .
If you don't have a bagger to collect leaves and grass clippings, you can mow in one direction and continually side discharge the mix into a pile against a wall or fence for easier raking and collecting. Just as in mulching back into the lawn, shredding the leaves allows them to be composted much faster. An easy way to shred leaves for a compost is to make windrows of leaves