Leaf Clean Up – the Green Living Way

In Landscaping on

Fall landscapes look so beautiful due to colorful leaves.  The colors can be stunning. If you are a lover of trees like I am you know leaf clean-up awaits you every fall shortly after the leaves drop to the ground. Think about this aspect of trees in your garden design. Let’s discuss leaf clean-up – the green living way, which is rarely ever mentioned in the many blogs on the topic.

Leaf Clean-Up Methods

Does your municipality pick up leaves curbside? Do you have to bag them? Or, is your property large so that you have to hire your landscaper to pick them up and dispose of them at your expense?

Municipalities are charging increasingly higher fees to pay for leaf handling. If you are responsible for the leaf pick-up on your property expect to pay high dump fees every year. So why not only keep but indeed use the leaves’ nutritional value around your plant beds. Use your leaves’ nitrogen to nurture your shrubs and plants. Consider a leaf clean-up by shredding the leaves with your lawn mover and using the material the green living way.

Keeping Your Leaves

Green living includes variety, recycling, and composting strategies.  Leaves make great compost material as brown matter alongside grass clippings, for example.  But usually, there are way more leaves than you know what to do with.  Simply piling them up and hauling them to an out-of-the-way corner on your property is not a good option, since you will create huge piles and it takes way more than a season to decompose the full leaves. Shredding your leaves is the answer. The Gardeners Supply Company has this picture which illustrates the power of reduction.

Leaf Clean-Up – Nutrients And New Soil

Hauling your leaves to the local transfer station in most towns means that your leaves will likely be composted. Most towns compost their leaf and yard waste these days since it is the most cost-effective way to handle the waste over burning the organic matter. That’s a good thing!

Here is another option that most landscapers, unfortunately, do not even know about, or pretend not to know about: Attach a leaf shredder to the front of their commercial movers and shred a pile of leaves down to small, almost mulch like pieces.  Your leaf pile should be less than a 1/4 in volume. You can then spread this shredded material around your property.  It’s the perfect material to spread around plants to protect them against harsh winter temps. Some people call this material leaf mold which makes great mulch around plants, shrubs, and in your vegetable garden. You can see how this is done in the episode “Leaf Shredding” from Ideas For Your Home, hosted by Sabine Schoenberg on SHG Living.

Do you have areas on your property where the soil is less than perfect nutritionally or you simply need to build up more good topsoil? Since the leaves were shredded into small pieces, these small pieces will compost into healthy new soil within a year or two. In other words, you created new nutritious soil this way.

Shredded leaves are also a great way to add “the brown” element in composting. There simply is no good reason not to clean up your leaves via shredding and using the material all around your property.

There is one exception to be aware of when undertaking leaf cleanup via shredding.  Walnut, eucalyptus, and camphor laurel leaves should not be shredded nor spread around your gardens.  They contain substances that stunt plant growth.

Objections From Your Landscaper

Many landscapers do not want to change their usual process of hauling away leaves and charging back their customers for the dumping fees.  They might tell you it takes way more time to gather, shred, and spread around the leaf material.  The truth is at the end of the day, it’s about the same time.  But if you add in next year’s savings on mulching and any purchases of new topsoil you are likely financially ahead. That’s when green living with this composting technique is cost-effective.

The Truth About Eco-Friendly, Green Living

Eco-friendly practices require mostly a change of habits. Reluctant landscapers usually tell their homeowners, that green living approaches including leaf shredding are more expensive. It just isn’t so. This is also how they sell homeowners on the terrible habit of spraying heavy chemicals against weeds.  These chemical treatments are expensive – why not spend the same money for someone to weed your lawn instead? Your kids and your pets are predominantly playing on your lawn.  It is not worth their health and your peace of mind to have them playing on a healthy lawn free of toxic chemical sprays?

While some spraying of hemlocks or boxwoods, for example, might be unavoidable given today’s garden pests.  There now appears to be an effective new organic application against boxwood blight – stay tuned for updates! For all of these reasons, why not start to switch over your gardening practices?!  Practice your eco-friendly, green living mindset by shredding and using your leaves this season. There are really no good reasons not to do it.  All it requires is a mind shift.