Leave Those Leaves

Save time, money, and improve your soil by keeping leaves on-site.

It’s that time of year when the leaves change color and drop from the trees making a multi-colored mess all over the landscaping. We spend hours raking, bagging, and stuffing the green waste full to the brim with these leaves. It’s obviously a ton  of work, and it turns out when you do this you are throwing away valuable nutrients for your garden. The ironic thing is that those same leaves are then sold back to you when you buy compost to enrich your garden soil. Why not take out the middle man? Keeping your leaves can reduce time and energy spent raking and bagging, can save you money, and keeps those precious nutrients right at home where they belong.

I made some phone calls to find out exactly where our green waste goes in San Luis Obispo. Some of it goes to the SLO landfill where it is utilized for covering garbage or for a current landscaping project they are working on. The rest of it goes to the Santa Maria landfill who then sends it to a trucking and construction company who also happens to make compost. They make their Harvest Blend compost and sell it to retail dealers who then sell it back to the public at around $40/yard. So not only will you be saving your time and money but you will also be conserving all of the resources that are used when the green waste is being hauled from site to site. Seems like a win win to me. It just takes a tiny bit of education and minimal effort to turn your leaves into nutrient rich compost for your soil.

What to do with your leaves

Rake them up in a pile, and leave them alone…
It’s true that leaving a blanket of leaves on your lawn or garden can be problematic. The mat of leaves can prevent water from reaching your soil or worse, can trap moisture in the soil which can cause soil fungus and disease. It’s a good idea to rake your leaves when you notice that they are piling up. Then find a spot in your yard and simply leave them there. You can also add kitchen scraps and other green waste to that pile. Eventually, you will have an earthy smelling, nutrient rich compost to add to your soil which will make your plants very happy and healthy. To learn more about composting read here.

Use a mulching mower…
Mulching mowers take in leaves from your lawn and cut them up into tiny pieces that you can use as mulch. You can either contain the leaf mulch in the bag and then dump them on a site to be used for composting, or you can put them right back onto your lawn where they will decompose, fed your lawn, and even suppress weeds. f you don’t have a mulching mower you can buy a mulching blade attachment at a hardware store to attach to your current mower.

Use a leaf shredder…
You can dump your pile of leaves into the shredder and then into your compost pile for quicker results.

Use a leaf vacuum..
Doesn’t that sound like more fun than raking? And they’re pretty inexpensive too. With a leaf vacuum, you can suck your leaves up, shred them, and then blow them back out where you want them. What’s easier than that?

So rather than buying bags of compost in the Spring when you are ready to start gardening again, why not just go in your backyard and spread your homemade, nutrient-rich compost around. Your plants, and your wallet will thank you!