Autumn is a season of change which brings cooler temperatures (eventually), but one thing that remains the same every year is the deluge of leaves that provide homeowners with a huge landscaping chore. There’s an old saying that money doesn’t grow on trees; however, what you decide to do with the leaves can definitely make a difference in your pocketbook.

There are different ways to dispose of the leaves. You can bag them and place them at your curb for pickup. However, unless your community has a composting program, they’ll just take up space in the landfill.

The Texas Agrilife Extension Service notes that 20 percent or more of the solid waste Texans generate comes from grass clippings, tree leaves and other landscape wastes. About half of all landscape waste originates from fallen leaves.

Instead, two of the best forms of leaf disposal will actually provide a great basis for water conservation: mulching and composting.

Disposing of leaves

One way to deal with the leaves is to use your lawnmower to mulch them. Mulching provides extra groundcover that actually saves water, according to the extension service. The mulch also reduces evaporation helping you to save water, helps to prevent erosion, controls weeds and enriches the soil.

Tree leaves actually provide a good organic source of nutrients for your yard. Not only is composting beneficial by keeping the leaves out of the landfill or lakes, it also provides you with an economical source of nutrients for your garden, trees and flowers.

If you have a small to moderate amount of leaves, mowing them might be the easiest way to manage them.

For larger amounts of leaves, you can run them through a shredder to turn them into mulch, or you can set aside a portion of your yard for composting. Putting the leaves into a compost bin allows them to decompose and turn into a rich source of natural nutrients.

The benefits of compost

There are multiple benefits to composting or mulching your leaves, and a little effort can pay big dividends for your yard or your garden, and save you money when it comes to providing nutrients for your plants by foregoing the purchase of fertilizer.

Leaves can either be one source of composted material or the sole source. They eventually decompose into a dark earthy substance, leaf mold compost. Most leaves are rich in potassium, and the nutrients can be returned to the soil to enrich your plants.

You can also add leftover vegetable scraps as you get them. Turn over the pile regularly to help it break down into compost, and in a few months you will have a great natural plant food to mix into your soil.

Because compost piles can shrink rapidly when you use them for gardening, if you have an excess of leaves that won’t all fit into a compost area at once, you can choose to bag your leaves and keep them stored. Any extra leaves you have stored can be added to your compost bin as space becomes available.

Mulch and compost also provide a rich environment for earthworms and ground beetles. Those beetles eat pests such as slugs and snails. Compost also contains beneficial microbes that can help your lawns, landscape beds and gardens fight off diseases and some pests.

When the spring planting season rolls around, you can place these nutrients in gardens, flower beds and around trees or shrubs.

Keep leaves out of the water

If you live near a lake, river or other natural water source, be sure that you don’t dispose of them by dumping them in the water. The excess nutrients can cause algae blooms, which is bad for the water and can result in fish kills.

Dumping organic materials into Texas’ waters is a crime under the state’s Health and Safety Code. A person convicted of violating this law can be given punishment ranging from a fine to jail time. The punishment increases with the amount dumped.

For more details on managing the leaves in your yard or methods of composting, click here.