After a long, hot summer here in Texas, many of us are looking forward to all the wonderful changes that the autumn season brings. From cooler temperatures to colorful foliage, fall provides an opportune time to work on your lawn and garden before winter.
While working on transitioning your summer yard into the fall, you will most likely encounter some fallen leaves in your backyard. Though the task of raking and bagging can seem overwhelming, you don’t have to throw the leaves away. Try these methods to help incorporate fall leaves into your lawn care routine.
Shredding the leaves with your lawnmower gives you free, shredded mulch for your garden. Simply wait for the leaves to dry and run over them with the mower. You can either gather the mulched leaves and add on top of your garden soil, or you can allow the leaf bits to slip between grass blades and reach the soil.
Using leaf mulch has many benefits besides being free. It can buffer soil temperatures, which keeps the soil warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. It also suppresses weeds and helps retain soil moisture. Try using leaves and needles from magnolia and pine trees, as they create waxier leaves and needles that are perfect for mulch.
Compost is vital for recharging your soil, and fall leaves are the perfect ingredient for your compost pile. Leaves that are softer, like those from maple and birch trees, can compost the easiest. If you don’t own one already, place a compost bin at the side of your yard and place the leaves and clippings in the bin. If you don’t want to purchase a bin, putting them in a pile will work as well. Shredding the leaves with your lawnmower will help speed up the decomposition process.
A compost pile needs oxygen and water, so turn over the pile regularly to help break down into compost and add water when the pile is dry. Placing leftover vegetable scraps into the compost pile will help reduce waste and add more nutrients to your compost. By next spring, your compost should be ready to use, giving you plenty of compost to add to your flowerbeds and garden.
Need a scarecrow for your garden? Use dry leaves to stuff an old pair of pants and a shirt. Use some twine and a stick for a perfect scarecrow. A scarecrow can be used to scare off birds from your garden and as a cute fall decoration.
Throw them into the lake? NO!
If you live on the shoreline of a reservoir or river, dumping the leaves into the water might seem like an obvious solution. People often think that if something is organic, like leaves, grass clippings or old plants, it’s alright to dump them into a lake, river or other body of water. However, it is against state law. The Texas Health Code specifies the fine and punishment for dumping anything, including organic materials, in the water.
When leaves are dumped into a body of water, they decompose and release such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which adds too many nutrients to the water. The nutrients from an excess of organic materials, as well as over-fertilizing yards or gardens, can result in algal blooms. As the algae “blooms,” it can affect both the dissolved oxygen content of the water and the pH of the water. Dumping large amounts of vegetation into a pond, lake or stream can prove harmful to not only the quality of the water, but also to the fish that depend on it to live.
Put them at the curb
You can always bag the leaves and leave them at the curb for your local trash service to take away. You may need to bag your leaves away from your regular household garbage, as some cities will pick up vegetation separately. Cities often compost this material to avoid filling up landfills.