By Calvin Finch, Ph.D., Guest Author
Leaves are reservoirs of nutrients and sources of organic material that can be recycled to your soil. The easiest way to achieve this recycling is to just let them decompose where they fall on the lawn. To speed up the process of decomposition, run the lawn mower over the leaves on the lawn. They will disappear in three to six weeks and the soil will be better for your effort.
If your neatness genes will not permit you to let leaves lie even for three-to-six weeks, rake them up. Raking is good exercise and a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Use the piles of leaves as mulch for the shrub border and the gardens. Leaf mulch reduces water evaporation, keeps the soil cool, reduces weed pressure and adds nutrients to the soil. A newly planted tree with 6 inches of mulch over the root system will grow as much as 40 percent faster than a tree that has lawn grass growing up to the trunk. A mulched tree is also less likely to be damaged by a string mower because grass is not growing against the trunk.
Leaves are basic raw material for the compost pile. Fill a 5-foot circle formed with 4-foot high hog wire with leaves mixed with a cup of lawn fertilizer every one foot of depth and wetted every week, and the material will decompose to compost in one to two months. Use the compost as soil conditioner in your vegetable and flower gardens.
Gifts For Gardeners
If we have still not convinced you that your leaves are too valuable to bag and be wasted in the landfill (they waste expensive landfill space, as well), consider giving the bagged leaves to a neighbor. Keep them available long enough to place a note in your neighborhood newsletter or to ask a few neighbors if there is anyone they know that might want them.
Enjoy the autumn leaf color and recycle your leaves. It makes sense for your landscape and the environment.
Calvin R. Finch is a director at Texas A&M Water Conservation and Technology Center.