In many parts of our beautiful country, now is the time when trees have burst into flaming color. Leaves became sparks of red, gold, and orange, and then tumbled to the ground. They dry out, and we enjoy the crispy crunch of walking through them with that familiar fall fragrance all around us. The changing leaves make this time of year beautiful — and maybe even your favorite time of year — until it’s time to rake. If your yard is large and you have older trees, your raking chores could be huge.
What if you found out that didn’t need to rake all of those leaves? Well, “be-leaf” it! Leaves can be reused to improve your yard and gardens for spring.
Instead of raking, bagging, and having the leaves picked up, you leave them on the ground to make your soil and grass healthier. Here’s how to “leaf-cycle”:
• If you have a mulching mower, run it over the leaves a couple of times to chop them into small bits. If you don’t have a mulching mower, simply remove the bagger attachment that catches grass and insert the safety cover. Then mow over the leaves. Your lawn should now be “dusted” with leaf bits. They will break down into the soil by spring to feed your lawn and will protect the grass roots from harsh winter weather.
• Or, with the bagger attached to a regular mower, you can mow up the leaves. Empty the leaf bits from your lawn onto your garden. This leaf mulch will keep the soil moist for plants in the spring. It will also protect insects and bacteria that help plants grow. In spring, fluff up the broken-down leaf bits, and mix the material into the soil as a fertilizer. If you have a compost pile or bin, you can also mix the leaf bits into the compost.
You may have heard some folks talk fondly about the “smell of the burning leaves.” That may sound like a nice memory from days gone by, but we now know that burning leaves is dangerous. Leaf burning can cause fires that damage property and the smoke is a very harmful type of air pollution. People, especially young children and those with allergies and breathing difficulties, can suffer greatly from the effects of leaf burning. Because of this, burning leaves is illegal in many communities.
So this year, when you and your neighbors get out the rakes, share the good news about the benefits of leaf-cycling. Maybe you will make “be-leafers” out of them if they aren’t already!
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