Sunday, October 17, 2010

Leaves - To Burn or Not To Burn?

Leaf pile #1 (with Leaf pile #5 in the background)

Leaf pile #2

Leaf pile #3

Leaf pile #4

Leaf pile #5

Leaf pile #6

And still, there's...






So...what to do with all those leaves?

  • Mulch - Chop them up with the lawn mower or shredder and use them as mulch on your flower beds. It's not a good idea to allow intact leaves to pile up on your beds because the layers of wet leaves can form a mat which breeds disease and provides a home for unwanted guests, like slugs. But chopped ones are fine. If there aren't too many, just allow the chopped leaves to remain on your lawn.

  • Compost - Add them to your compost bin. This is what we do with most of ours. You can add them whole, but they'll compost much faster if you chop them first. Compost needs a "brown" ingredient and this is the perfect time of year to get that!

  • Leaf mold - Just bag 'em and forget 'em! Put the leaves in a garbage bag, add a little water and store them. Makes sure there are a few air holes in the bags and if they dry out (not really likely) you might need to add moisture at some point, so just wet them with the hose. It takes about six months for good leaf mold to form. This is a great organic element to add to your soil to improve drainage.

Why not burn?

Leaves smell good when they're burning, right? Many of us associate that wonderful aroma with fall. But... (there's always a but, isn't there?) ...  that smoke contains a number of harmful toxins, most especially hydrocarbons.

Some hydrocarbons are known to be carcinogens and breathing them in contributes to known and unknown environmental factors increasing the incidence of cancer in humans. Those with asthma may find that the smoke from burning leaves is especially irritating to their lungs and hampers breathing. Leaf smoke also contains carbon monoxide.


~fer said...

wow! those are a lot of leafs. And I thought that i had a bunch that time my mints shed a few.
You do well on making compost. Burning might be convenient, but is not good for nature or for oneself

JGH said...

Enjoyed your fall pics!
I think I'm going to do a little bit of all of those things this year. I put them whole on the beds this year and did get a few slugs - wonder if that's why. This year I'll shred them first.

Christine B. said...

I guess I don't have that many cuz I just let them lie where they land. If they are still around in spring, they get flung into the compost.

Christine in Alaska

Dave@TheHomeGarden said...

I love to chop mine up with the bagger mower and use them for mulch! Leaves are one of nature's best resources and it drives me nuts when people burn them. I'm hoping to gather a few bags of leaves from people who rake them and toss them in the compost bin.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I am definitely a mulcher. Now days that wonderful aroma makes it difficult for me to breathe. UGH.. Don't burn please.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I wish the communities around here would ban burning, but people on semi-rural properties believe it is their Constitutional right to burn leaves. I have to shut the windows & shut off the car's ventilation while driving around in autumn.

Rose said...

Looks like you have quite a supply for all three, Kylee:) I never burn leaves, even though I'm not constrained by the nearby town's leaf-burning ban. I do use them as mulch or add them to the compost pile; I like your idea for making leaf mold, though--even simpler!

Nutty Gnome said...

..... and I thought I'd got a lot of leaves to clear up!

I can't burn as we're in a smokeless zone here, so I'm not allowed - and it seems such a shame to get rid of potential black gold that way anyway. I chuck them on the compost or make a new leaf pound - but I also leave a lot on the borders as mulch and frost protection (well that's my excuse anyway!)

Mary S. said...

Lot of leaves there! We mulch and compost all of ours. Leaf burning is banned here, but many of our neighbors are crazy for bonfires and brick ovens and all sorts of ways to produce smoke regardless of how it affects others. (we have asthmatics in the house.) I feel like the neighborhood crab complaining -- so I just shut the windows, turn off the ventilation system and hope for a brisk wind.

frazzledsugarplummum said...

I would kill for those leaves. Thanks for making a point about not burning them.


I'm envious of gardeners like yourself with lots of land on which to garden. Until fall comes around and I see all the leaves you have to deal with.

AndreaGSanJose said...

Spread them out several inches thick,add shredded newspaper if you have it, water, cover all over with a few layers of wet cardboard then with a few inches of compost or mulch - leave all winter - it's springy like a real bed. You can plant on it by just moving the compost or mulch out of the way. Underneath you are making fantastic soil and making a great home for earthworms. After a season all you have left is a beautiful thick layer of soil and no weeds from underneath.

Commonweeder said...

Kylee - I have composted my leaves, and I have even planted in leaves that have been composted inside a wire frame. Larry Lightner, who taught me this technique had what he called spot gardens in his yard. He and I packed all the leaves we could get inside a frame of chicken wire held in place with fence stakes. Even unshredded leaves will break down more rapidly than you think. In the spring you can plant in those much diminished compost piles. I think I'll have to do a post about this.

Unknown said...

Heeee! I wish those were all here...which reminds me it's time to take the truck and go leaf-napping again. Mine all blow to some other continent, so I content myself with collecting up bags that others have raked and set out at the curbside. Never can have enough leaves.

Garden Lily said...

Wow, that's a lot of leaves. Our trees are just itty bitty, so I don't really have leaves to speak of. I'd vote for the "bag em and forget em" option - that's my kind of gardening!

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