Fall is well underway and we all know that with fall comes mountains of leaves! The beautiful color changes can quickly transition into a thick carpet of smothering leaves on the ground. Many homeowners are smart and use this natural resource in the garden but others do one thing that drives this gardener crazy. What is it that you shouldn’t do with fall leaves? Burn them.
Why is burning leaves a bad thing? Two reasons: it releases pollutants into the air and it is extremely wasteful. Smoke and particulates get released into the air and decrease the air quality. Last year a neighbor burned his leaves and the wind brought the smoke right into my house. You don’t want to breathe that kind of air.
Burning leaves doesn’t just cause pollution but it also wastes a valuable resource. Think about it. Have you ever been in a forest and looked at the dark, rich, and loamy soil? That doesn’t happen by accident. It happens with years of leaves dropping and decaying on the forest floor. Microbes, insects, worms, and other creatures break the leaves down into forms that the plants in the forest can use. The leaves free up nutrients as they break down and help to replenish the soil. It’s compost.
Now think about those leaves working for you in your garden! When used as a mulch the leaves act just as they do in the forest and gradually break down while smothering weeds. What if you put those leaves into your compost bin with all the kitchen scraps and yard waste from fall? You would end up with rich and loamy compost in the spring to spread around your vegetable garden, trees, herbs, or even potted plants.
Gathering leaves can for garden use can be done in several ways. One of my favorite ways is to use the bagging pushmower I have to grind the leaves first. Then I take the bag and empty it out over the compost bin or in a garden bed I want to mulch. Raking the leaves can be fun for the whole family. Who doesn’t remember the smell of crushed leaves after jumping into a huge pile of leaves in the backyard? It’s a fall tradition! It’s also a great workout.
If you don’t want to do either of those methods then simply mow the leaves into the yard. Mowing will help the leaves break down faster and will prevent the grass from being smothered.
If you have too many leaves get in touch with some gardener friends and see if they would help you in exchange for some of the leaves. They might jump at the chance! If you need more reasons to use your leaves check out these 10 uses for fall leaves. Whatever you do, just don’t burn the leaves!