Thursday, November 12, 2015

What is the Best Way to Deal with Falling Leaves?

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The time-honored ritual of raking leaves during the fall months is a chore many homeowners would like to avoid.

In fact, there are several ways of putting leaves to better use in a yard according to Patrick Byers, horticulture specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

“From an ecological point, the best way to deal with leaves in the landscape is to mulch them where they fall and let them decompose to release their minerals back to the soil,” said Byers.

In well managed turf, leaf drop from shade trees is not always a nuisance that requires raking. Even if a moderate amount of leaves are chopped with a mulching mower they can normally be allowed to decompose into the turf.

“Leaves are high in nutrients like iron, zinc and copper. They are also rich in organic matter, a valuable commodity for the turf, existing trees and shrubs,” said Byers.

The acidity of the leaves is a common concern with many homeowners. Fresh oak leaves may initially lower soil pH but as leaves decompose, the pH will gradually build to a neutral level causing little concern.

Another concern is smothering out the turf if leaves are allowed to remain.

Leaf cover that is too thick may cause excessive moisture under the leaves or drastically reduce sunlight to the turf.

“In some cases, leaves may accumulate to a depth that, even after mulching, will smother out the turf. If so, it is best to remove the leaves and shred them in another location,” said Byers.

Other options are to incorporate them into an annual flower or vegetable garden, start a compost pile, deliver them to a yard waste recycling center to be composted or create leaf mold.

More information on what to do with leaves is available by requesting Guide 6956, “Making and Using Composts,” from your local University of Missouri Extension Center.  


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