Cleaning up fall leaves? Stop all that raking, bagging and dragging to the curb - there's definitely an easier, and greener, way to get the job done. Just chop the leaves into bits with your lawn mower, and use them to help feed your lawn and garden.
In the process, you'll be giving your garden, the environment and yourself a break, and the bounty of fall leaves will benefit your yard and garden instead of being trucked to a landfill.
About 50 percent of the nutrients absorbed by leaves during the growing season are still available in the fallen leaves, so if you return them to your soil, they amount to free fertilizer and essential organic matter to benefit your lawn and garden.
To use autumn leaves effectively, chop them up first with your lawn mower, set to its top deck height. You don't have to rake them up beforehand, but you may have to run over them twice. Make sure your mower's blades are sharp, and do the job when the leaves are only 3 to 4 inches deep and a bit damp from morning dew, but not too wet.
Here are four ways you can enhance your lawn, garden and compost pile with chopped up fall leaves:
According to research at Michigan State University, lawn grass benefits greatly from having chopped-up leaves left on the surface. Like grass clippings, leaves return nutrients and organic matter back to the soil. By spring most of the leaf bits will have been broken down. Mow leaves into your lawn weekly during the fall. Avoid leaving the job until every last leaf has come down, or you could smother your lawn.
Spread on top of your perennial flower beds or under shrubs, a blanket of fall leaves act as winter mulch, regulating temperatures and improving soil quality as they break down.
For your vegetable garden, dig or till chopped-up leaves into the soil. They will break down readily over the next few months, leaving the bed nicely workable for spring seed-sowing and planting.
Place chopped fall leaves near your compost pile as they are a good source of "brown material" to help speed up the composting process. Fall leaves help to balance green matter in your pile so that the materials break down faster and more thoroughly.
Doing your autumn leaf clean-up this way can help you avoid hours of back-breaking raking and blisters. Why not try it this fall?