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Raking leaves may not be the best option

It’s that time of year again, when Mother Nature paints a beautiful backdrop in the reds of maples, the yellows of elms and the oranges of aspens. But after all that beauty falls to the ground creating a blanket of dried out vegetation, raking leaves becomes your next chore.

For generations, the practice of raking leaves in the months of October and November have become a common practice for homeowners. Weekends are spent out in the sunshine with a hand rake and giant garbage bags, or an extension cord and a leaf blower, cleaning up nature’s mess, which often takes hours of your time to complete.

But many landscape and environmental experts are beginning to question if raking leaves is no longer the best option for you, your property and the environment.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, leaves and other yard waste (being deposited in landfills) accounts for some 34.7 million tons of waste each year in the United States alone. That translates to about 13.3% of all solid waste in the country.

Additionally, the EPA also found that the disposal of fall leaves in landfills raises health risks. They pollute the air we breath by releasing methane gas, and the acids they produce can leach into the ground polluting soil and water.

Forget about burning leaves as a solution. Not only does that pollute the air, but it also runs the risk of uncontrollable fires (which is why many cities and states ban the burning).

While most municipalities require homeowners and businesses to remove fallen leaves from their properties – especially from their lawns – there are some solutions to reduce the amount of leaves being deposited in landfills, thus becoming toxic waste.

David Ellis, the Director of Communications at the American Horticultural Society says, “Large quantities of leaves left on lawns over a long period may cause damage to turf. This is especially problematic if the leaves are large, flat ones found on trees such as sycamores and some oaks, which can form a nearly impermeable mat.”

Ellis recommends using your push or ride-on lawn mowers to “mulch” the leaves on your lawn, rather than spend hours and hours raking them up and bagging them. This alone will dramatically reduce the quantity of leaves you’re left with on your property. Here then, are some beneficial things you can do with your newly mulched leaves.

  1. Use as protective mulch in perennial beds before the winter. A four-inch layer can help shield delicate plants and shrubs from extreme cold.
  2. Pile around rose bushes to help insulate them. Creating cages from chicken wire can help keep them in place.
  3. Use in your vegetable garden to help replenish the soil with nutrients.
  4. For leaves you just mulched, you can allow the debris to remain on your lawn to further break down to feed and nourish.
  5. Add to your compost bin for a rich mixture come the spring.

Ellis says, “Restrain the urge for excessive tidiness and find ways to use the natural bounty of leaves that autumn provides.” Your back, your landscape and the planet will thank you.

For information on fall tree care, visit SavATree today.