Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Leave those Lovely Leaves

When it comes to Autumn, I feel very much like writer Elizabeth Lawrence who said:

Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn. ~ Elizabeth Lawrence

Unfortunately, once we have watched the splendid beauty of leaves splashing our trees with color and raining to the ground, we must then decide what to do with the fallen foliage. The main thing to keep in mind is to keep leaves out of the storm drains.

Here are some tips for tackling your fall foliage.  

1) Leave them be - For those who have a wooded lot you may decide to go natural and let them become leaf litter. Leaf litter, also called leaf mold, consists of leaves, bark and twigs which have dropped to the ground. It provides habitat for tiny forest critters and insects and organic matter for the forest floor.

2) Mulch them into your lawn - Use a mulching mower and mow over the leaves several times until they are finely chopped. Up to ¾" deep of shredded leaves can be left on your lawn without harming it.

3) Add them to your compost pile - Leaves can be added directly to your compost pile, but they will break down quicker if they are chopped up. You can rake dry leaves into low piles and mow over them several times with a mulching mower, as above, and then add them to your compost. Or you can vacuum them up with a leaf vacuum and empty them into your compost pile. Add layers of shredded leaves with the green materials you would normally add to your compost—vegetable and fruit scraps, weeds, grass clippings and plants —and let it all sit in a compost bin over the winter. By springtime you'll have some great, finished compost.

4) Use them in your gardens - Shredded leaves can also be used in your gardens as an organic "blanket" to help protect plants through the winter. Apply a 2- or 3-inch layer of shredded leaves to beds, keeping them from actually touching any plants. Leaves will help the soil retain moisture, limit weed growth and add nutrients to the soil as they break down. Decaying leaves will deplete soil nitrogen, so add an organic source of slow-release nitrogen to compensate before planting.

5) Prepare them for collection - If you don't want to use leaves in your own landscape, "donate" them to local leaf collection program. Many localities will pick up leaves from your home and grind them into mulch that is available to local residents. Please make sure you follow all guidelines for your particular area. Arlington VA Leaf Collection, Montogmery County Leaf Collection, Frederick Maryland, Falls Church. If your area is not listed, leaf collection is usually carried out by the local solid waste department.

Now here are a few DON'Ts

6) Don't forget the gutters - Clogged gutters can allow water to overflow and wash harmful elements into local storm drains. Gutters should be cleaned at least twice a year.

7) Don't leave them on sidewalks - Although leaf covered sidewalks are beautiful, they can also be slippery. Collect leaves from your sidewalks and use them in one of the ways listed above.

8) Don't burn them - Burning leaves creates smoke that contains dangerous compounds and can spark accidental fires.

9) Don't rake or blow them into the street - As mentioned above, it is important to keep leaves out of storm drains.

10) Don't park your car over leaves piled in the street - Even if you are taking proper precautions and keeping leaves out of the street, others may not be. Parking your car over leaves in the street creates a fire hazard.

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