Cooler weather equals falling leaves, and your lawn and gardens will benefit from proper leaf management.
Each year, lawn and landscape waste is placed into the curbside collection system which uses valuable landfill space, removes nutrients from the environment and cost cities and their taxpayers more in increased taxes and service costs.
During the fall and early winter, when lawns stop growing and the leaf rake replaces the lawnmower, tree leaves become a major component of lawn wastes. Here are several ideas for keeping these wonderfully beneficial byproducts of our beautiful Irving landscapes out of the curbside collection system.
Correct Leaf Management
- The best leaf management is to mow and mulch leaves into the turf. Using a mulching mower is best but not essential. Turf can take a large volume of leaves before there is excess. Excess leaves would be when the lawn is about to be completely covered and smothered by the ground-up leaves.
- At the point of excess, the leaves should still be mulched on the lawn or driveway, and then raked, picked up and distributed as mulch in flower beds and vegetables gardens.
- When no more mulch is needed in the flower and vegetable beds, the remaining ground-up leaves can be added to a compost pile. Add dry molasses (approximately 20 lbs. per 1,000 square feet) to the beds and the compost pile to help the material break down and become humus more efficiently.
Leaf Management Mistakes
- Do not bag leaves and send them to the landfill.
- Do not rake leaves and set them on fire.
- Do not rake leaves and put into the compost pile, leaving them whole, except as a last resort.
- Do not blow leaves onto a neighbor’s property or into the storm sewers or streets.
- If you have too many clippings, rake them into mulch layers around trees and shrubbery.
Leaves Make Excellent Mulch
Mulch is a material that is used to protect the soil and to inhibit weed growth by covering the ground. Good mulches include wood chips, leaves, grass clippings and compost. They can benefit your lawn and garden by preventing erosion, suppressing weeds, retaining soil moisture, moderating soil temperature and adding nutrients as they break down slowly.
- Create a self-mulching lawn. Wait to mow until your grass is between 2 and 4 inches high. Then mow off only the top one-third of the grass, and don’t bag the clippings. This way, the clippings will feed your soil and won’t smother your grass.
- Put a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch around your trees, shrubs, and garden plants. To prevent diseases and pest infestation, mulch should not be piled up against the stems or trunks of plants. For best results, use long-lasting mulches (wood chips, wood shavings, evergreen needles).
- Mulch all areas that are not covered in grass or thick ground cover.
- Use a layer of coarse mulch 3 inches or more in depth for weed control.
- When converting grassy areas to mulch, smother the grass with a thick layer of cardboard or newspaper rather than killing it with chemicals. Some hardy grasses must be rooted out for successful removal.
Information sources: Texas Commission for the Environment; Howard Garrett, the DirtDoctor.