Leaves, leaves everywhere: What to do with fresh fallen foliage

Posted October 6, 2016 in Blog, Landscape Maintenance

The seasonal color show is about to get underway…are you ready?  The autumn season is special for so many reasons, namely the beautiful scenery, comfortable weather, fall activities like carving pumpkins, sipping cider and watching your kids and pets run and dive through the massive mounds of raked leaves.  The allure of jumping in leaf piles only lasts so long, so what are you supposed to do with the blanket of dead leaves in your yard when the fun stops?  It is highly recommended that you elect to do something, rather than nothing, because leaving a thick covering of leaves on your grass can be detrimental to its health!  Here are a few ways to strategize your plan of attack on this fresh fallen foliage.


collecting fall leavesThere are different options for collection, depending on where you live.  When I was little, it seemed like we lived in the middle of nowhere.  Every early-autumn Sunday afternoon my mom and I would dedicate time to raking the leaves, bagging them up and emptying the bags behind the garage.  At that time, it seemed like cruel and unusual punishment, spending a weekend day raking leaves!  Now, I understand that it had to be done and we were actually providing ground layer protection for any little critters that were still gathering for their winter respite!  So, if you don’t mind a little sweat equity, relocating the fallen leaves into wooded areas is a good way to make your kids put down the smartphones for an afternoon and earn their keep.

Now that I don’t live in the middle of nowhere I have found that my town, like most, leaf piles in street for collectionholds leaf collection days where homeowners, their landscape service or a friend that lost a bet can blow or rake the leaves into big piles along the street and a vacuum truck will come and suck them up during designated times.  This is exceptionally convenient and is also a way to give back to your community.  More often than not, when the municipality opts to pick up your leaf piles, they will shred or compost the leaves to use in the landscaping around town.  Your yard ends up looking fresh and clean, and your community gets to reap the benefits as well.  A win-win.

Garden Value

compost pile with autumn leavesDo you have a compost pile?  If not, now would be the perfect time to do some research and get one started!  As a general rule of thumb, for every green and nitrogen-rich amount of matter in the bin, such as kitchen scraps or coffee grounds, you will need an equal amount of organic and carbon-rich material.  Autumn leaves are at the top of the carbon-rich material list, ready to break-down over the winter season and perfectly suited for the compost bin.  Through a system of layering and rotating the nitrogen and carbon matter, you can harvest your very own nutrient-rich compost within 6 months!  Doing a little planning, if you start in October and keep on schedule, you can forgo the bags of fertilizer from the big-box stores and use your very own cost-effective mix come spring!

If you don’t have the time, energy or interest in starting your own compost bin, shredded leaves for garden bedsbut you would still like to utilize some leaves around your property, you could always incorporate chopped or shredded leaves into your cleared-out planting beds!  The pieces of leaves will mostly decompose over the winter and during the spring thaw, you can mix the soil up to evenly distribute the nutrients left behind.  If you don’t have a leaf mulcher or shredder, you can use a trash bin full of leaves and a weed whacker in a pinch.  Just be sure to wear eye protection!

Natural Insulation

planters surrounded by autumn leavesIf you have planters on your property that house perennials and they are just too cumbersome to move into your basement for winter, you can use the spent leaves from the ground as protective insulation from the cold!  As the plants become dormant for the season, huddle the pots closer together against the house, under an overhang if possible, and cover with the dry leaves.  Tuck, place and stuff the leaves under, over and between the planters to create a natural insulation blanket.  If wind becomes an issue, you can create a barrier around the pots to keep the majority of the leaves in place but once the snow falls, the weight of the snow usually keeps everything in place.

For all the ways there are to creatively and efficiently use the fallen leaves to your advantage, one thing we strongly recommend against is burning the leaves as a method of disposal.  Most all townships and boroughs actively have a ban against burning leaves, because it results in pollution, lung irritation and it is also a severe fire hazard!  If you have ever thrown a branch with leaves on an open fire, you know that the leaves burn up, fly up and fly away quite quickly, potentially leading to a bigger problem.  With so many other methods to get rid of leaves safely, this is one idea that should be extinguished.

Whichever way of relieving your property of the fallen leaves suits you best, don’t forget to take in the splendor of the season.  autumn leaves in vaseThe color, shape and texture of each leaf is unique and should be admired.  Take a few of your favorites inside and decorate your home.  Branches of color changing leaves are a beautiful centerpiece or accent in the crystal vase on the mantle, and the kiddos can have fun displaying the leaves on complimenting construction paper to be proudly displayed on the refrigerator.  Autumn décor should emulate nature, its bounty and its harvest, and you won’t have to go any further than your backyard to be inspired!

If your home and backyard need more help than fall maintenance tips and you’re having trouble being inspired by your own outdoor living space, give MasterPLAN Outdoor Living a call.  Unlocking the true potential for your backyard is our specialty, and we would love to turn your “how?” into a “WOW”!  Reach out to MasterPLAN to chat about transforming your dream backyard into your reality; when you are ready, we are ready!

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