Leaves: What To Do With Them

Mowing up leaves off my front lawn under a red maple tree

Leaves are falling and piling up all over town. There are a lot of thoughts about how to handle fall leaves, even some folks saying leave them where they fall. This is fine for woodland areas, but if you have beautiful turf they need to be removed. The old fashioned raking of leaves is a fine way to handle them, but for most of us that is slow go. For years I have used a lawn mower to cut them up and collect them. Once cut up you can dispose of them, add to the compost pile, or bag them, wet them down in the bag, seal it. This will speed decomposition. They need to stay damp all winter to decompose, so they will be ready for soil amendments or mulch in late spring. Here is how I like to collect them. I raise the mower up one notch and slowly cut them which gets lots of the leaves and looks okay if there are still leaves falling. Once you get to the final cut to get the last of the leaves, I put the mower wheels back to the original mowing level and try to get every leaf that the mower can collect. Once I have completed that, I take my blower and remove any that were stuck or could not be gotten by the mower. Blow these left over leaves and remove. Once the garden is clean or the leaves in the natural areas have finished falling, I wait until after a good rain and cut turf again for a final time. If the leaves in the natural do not look groomed enough, I cover them with a light layer of pine straw to give these areas a more finished look. Remember leaves are a valuable source of nutrients and mulch for plants but should not be left on turf.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

One thought on “Leaves: What To Do With Them

  1. I’d been thinking if starting a compost pile. Should I put the mulched leaves over the clean garden or in a separate compost area? Thanks, John!

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