Outdoors

Here’s how to handle a leafy situation

A graphic of leaves
A graphic of leaves Special to the Sun Herald

In the South, having big old shade trees in your yard is something to be desired.

But one of the things that go with those trees are falling leaves. Sure, this time of year, crunching leaves under your feet can be a pleasant sensation. However, sooner or later, you’re going to have to do something about those leaves or they’ll take over your yard. A thick layer of leaves left on top of your lawn could harm your grass.

Of course, the simplest thing to do is hire somebody to pile them up and haul them away. That’s the simplest, but also the most expensive. Not only that but, if you have a tree that continually drops leaves over the fall and winter, you may have to hire those guys more than once.

If you’re a cheapskate like I am, you can remove the leaves yourself. For this procedure, you’ve got a number of options. Probably the best one is to mulch the leaves with your lawnmower. Unless you have a 40 year old Big-wheel Yazoo, your mower already has a mulching blade that will do the job. You’ll want to reduce the leaves down to bits the size of a dime.

You’re done when you can see through the leaves. Mulching the leaves will help bacteria, fungi and worms to break them down more quickly. Mulching your leaves saves you time and labor and also improves your soil and adds nutrients.

If you have one of those riding mowers and you’ve got a big chunk of change lying around that you don’t really need, you can buy one of those vacuum attachments. Those things can really suck up leaves and makes putting them in a bag or pile a snap to do. Then there’s the leaf blower. If you have leaves in your flower beds, a leaf blower can make a lot of sense.

Running a rake through your annuals and perennials isn’t a good idea. The final method is that old tried-and-true rake. Some kids think raking leaves is fun. Especially the part where they get to jump into the piles they made. If you’re an old, fat guy like me, you might want to start with a little stretching and take it slow. And don’t go jumping into the piles when you’re finished. You probably won’t have the energy and you might break something important.

Once your leaves have been collected, you can make up your mind what to do with them. Making compost is a good idea but you can’t just pile them up and hope for the best. You’ll need to set up a compost bin. This can be a simple chicken wire fence to keep the pile together to a fancy metal bin that can be rotated. If you don’t need compost, the leaves can be used as a mulch around your flower beds and shrubs.

Finally, you can bag them up and leave them at the curb. Someone will pick them up, either the waste disposal folks or someone who wants to use them as compost or mulch.

Tim Lockley, a specialist in entomology, is retired from a 30-year career as a research scientist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For answers to individual questions, please send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Tim Lockley, c/o Sun Herald, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS 39535.

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