Archive for Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Layers of leaves

Several options available to rid yards of leaves

October 29, 2003

It's that time of year when lawns and yards start disappearing under carpets of fallen leaves. Bruce Chladny said there are several ways people can choose in deciding how to take care of the leaves, but there is something that shouldn't be done.

"What they should do is not panic," he said.

Chladny, Douglas County horticulture extension agent, said many options are available for people wanting to rid their yards of brown, crunchy leaves, and some are better than others.

"The best thing to do is deal with them on site if possible," he said. "There's nothing more frustrating than seeing bags and bags of leaves along the street."

Leaves, he said, can be beneficial to the soil and will help the next year's plants and flowers if disposed of properly.

"Leaves make a wonderful organic matter," he said.

One option that wouldn't require a lot of extra work, Chladny said, is shredding the leaves and adding them directly to the garden or flower bed.

"Rototill those leaves under and let mother nature do her thing," he said.

A number of people, like gardeners, he said, will go in search of leaves this time of year to use in their yards, so Chladny encouraged the sharing of leaves with neighbors.

Leaves can also be collected and used for a compost pile. But in order to make the compost pile successful, he said, green material, like grass clippings, must be added to start the compost process.

A third option for those wanting to rid their yard of stray leaves, Chladny said, is cutting them like grass.

"Just mow over them with a lawn mower," he said.

Once the leaves are cut up, he said, they will break down and decompose causing no harm to the yard.

Another popular method of leaf control is burning, but Chladny said he wouldn't recommend it as one of the better methods.

"Burning leaves, I don't think, is a real good practice if it's not done right," he said.

Often, he said, leaves are burned near or around trees, making it easy to damage the trees.

Damage can also be caused to the grass, he said, by the ash that's left over. Chladny said the ash, which contains phosphorous, will act like lime and damage the grass.

"You might not have grass grow for a year or two where you burned leaves," he said.

Baldwin allows the burning of leaves inside city limits, but has some regulations. According to the city's Web site, Baldwin City Public Works must be notified before burning any leaves and other tree-type matter. Burning can occur between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. when the wind is less that 10 mph. Nothing may be burned on the streets.

The last option Chladny suggests for taking care of fallen leaves is bagging and sending them to the landfill. But he said he knew that for some, there were too many leaves and not enough time to do anything but bag the leaves.

So for those who will rake and bag leaves, he recommended using paper bags instead of plastic. He said paper bags will decompose faster.

He also suggested shredding the leaves before bagging them, which will help use fewer bags.

But for those who have the time, Chladny said he hoped people would use some of the other methods for leaf disposal.

"If it's possible to take care of them on site, it would be wonderful," he said.

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