Cleaning Up Fall Leaves Can Prevent Damage and Give Back to the Garden

October 21, 2010 at 8:09 AM Leave a comment

[from a Home Depot Email Newsletter]
More Know-Hows

Cleaning Up Fall Leaves Can Prevent Damage and Give Back to the Garden

Fallen leaves are an inevitable part of autumn, but left unattended they can damage your garden. Over time they can smother your grass, clog your gutters and even stain your deck and garden furniture. But those same leaves can be collected and put to good use in the garden as compost or mulch.

To save your back and make this chore as easy as possible, spread the job over several weekends. Blow, rake and bag as the leaves fall rather than trying to clean them all up in a single day.

Compost them

Many gardeners think of fall leaves as autumn gold. After you’ve chopped or shredded them by running a mulching lawn mower over them, they’re a good source of high-carbon material for the compost pile. Alternate layers of shredded leaves with the green materials you would normally add to your compost—vegetable and fruit scraps, weeds, grass clippings and plants you’ve pulled out of the garden during fall cleanup—and let it all sit in a compost bin over the winter. Aerate or turn the pile every so often, and by next spring you’ll have finished compost.

Mulching with leaves

Shredded fall foliage can be used as organic mulch in flower beds, vegetable gardens and container gardens and under trees and shrubs. Apply a 2- or 3-inch layer of shredded leaves to beds, keeping them from actually touching any plants. Mulching with leaves will help the soil retain moisture, stay cool and limit weed growth. As a bonus, the leaves will also add nutrients to the soil as they break down.

Lawn cleanup options

Mulching lawn mower: Good for large properties. Attach a bagging system to your lawn mower or tractor. Make sure leaves are dry or they’ll clog the mower.

Leaf blower/vacuum: Terrific for large lawns covered with huge masses of leaves. Also ideal for leaves fallen between rocks, at the base of a fence and on decks, patios and outdoor furniture.

Rakes: Most effective for leaf removal in small yards, for finishing touches and to remove thatch. The expanding rake lets you use the widest bow to rake the lawn and the narrowest one to get between structures or bushes. There are rakes with foam-cushioned handles to help prevent blisters or wrist injuries and ergonomic models with bent handles designed to let the rake do the work rather than your back.

Don’t forget house gutters

Gutters protect your house from water damage, but when they’re clogged by leaves they’ll overflow when it rains, causing serious damage to landscaping, basements and house foundations as well as to the gutters themselves.

They should be cleaned at least twice a year, in the fall and spring. The most important tool for this is a sturdy ladder, preferably one with a stabilizing extension. You’ll also need to wear work gloves when you remove the leaves and have a small bucket or bag on hand to put the debris in.

You’ll find various types of house gutters and gutter leaf guards at The Home Depot. There are screens and surface-tension models customized by mesh that acts as a sieve to prevent leaves and debris from entering while rainwater flows easily through.

Finally, don’t neglect the gutter downspout, which is easy to flush out with a high-pressure garden-hose sprayer or a plumbing snake in a problem situation. The sprayer is a powerful tool for even the toughest buildup.

Entry filed under: Green Information, Our Gardens.

How to make a spherical water feature. Japanese Maples offer great fall color in the garden.

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