Leave the Leaves
Traditionally, leaf removal has entailed three steps: Rake leaves (or blast them with a blower) into piles, transfer the piles to bags and place the bags out to be hauled off to a landfill. Yet, increasingly, conservationists say these actions not only harm the environment but rob your garden of nutrients while destroying wildlife habitat. The alternative? “Let fallen leaves stay on your property,” says National Wildlife Federation Naturalist David Mizejewski.
Here are some tips:
• Let leaves stay where they fall. They won't hurt your lawn if you chop them with a mulching mower.
• Rake leaves off the lawn to use as mulch in garden beds. For finer-textured mulch, shred them first.
• Let leaf piles decompose; the resulting leaf mold can be used as a soil amendment to improve structure and water retention.
• Make compost: Combine fallen leaves (“brown material”) with grass clippings and other “green material” and keep moist and well mixed. You’ll have nutrient-rich compost to add to your garden next spring.
• Still too many leaves? Share them with neighbors, friends, schools and others. Some communities will pick up leaves and make compost to sell or give away.
• Build a brush shelter. Along with branches, sticks and stems, leaves can be used to make brush piles that shelter native wildlife.
For more wildlife-gardening tips, visit The Natural Wildlife Federation Garden for Wildlife.