Put Fall Leaves to Work

It’s a rite of fall: removing fallen leaves so they don’t weigh down our turf, attract disease or shelter bugs. Whether you’re a raker, a mulcher, a composter or a mower, you can put fallen leaves to work for you – and your lawn and landscape – by creating leaf mold to serve as a moisture-boosting soil amendment later. Adding decomposed leaves to your lawn or garden can significantly improve the quality of your soil: Leaf mold can hold up to 500 percent of its own weight in water. When it’s added to soil or used as a soil cover, it reduces evaporation, absorbs excess rainwater and helps the soil hold water during dry periods. Unfortunately, the only way to get leaf mold is to make it yourself. It’s simple, but not for the impatient.

Making leaf mold is a much slower process than conventional composting because decomposition is carried by fungi under much cooler temperatures. Piling up leaves in the corner of your lawn will get the job done, but the breakdown naturally will take two to three years. Shredding your leaves first (running over them with a lawn mower is fine), keeping the leaves covered and checking periodically to make sure they’re moist will speed up the process to about a year. Packing leaves into black trash bags is an inexpensive way to do this – just moisten shredded leaves, seal the bag and poke a few small holes in the sides. Stash them away in an inconspicuous place until the contents are soft, crumbly and brown.

Not feeling up to the task? There is another way out. As trees begin dropping their leaves in the fall, you can systematically mow them into the lawn to provide a mulch. However, over time (3 years at least) this can build up an organic layer called thatch between your lawn grass and soil that can inhibit growth of the grass. This problem can be solved using a detacher to break the layer and aerate the lawn. Most often than not thatches will harbor above ground insect pests that also contribute to the degradation of the lawn. You can keep these plant-munching bugs out of your landscape as needed by treating with EcoLogic® Lawn & Yard Insect Killer products, made with cinnamon oil and peppermint oil for a formula that’s safe to use around kids and pets when used and stored as directed.