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Use Your Leaves

mow your leaves
use your leaves as mulch
compost your leaves

mulch mowers 
sustainable lawncare  

Mow Your Leaves

If you have a yard, you can mow the leaves right on your lawn. Thick layers of fallen leaves, especially when they are wet and compact, block light and air and suffocate grass underneath. But fallen leaves do contain carbon and other nutrients and can add considerable organic matter to the soil.

By mowing the leaves on your lawn, you shred them into smaller pieces and enable the microorganisms to break down the leaves quicker. This prevents excessive amounts of leaves from settling and becoming an impenetrable matted layer and adds rich leaf matter to your lawn.

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Use Your Leaves as Mulch

You can rake up leaves or bag them to have a ready source of mulch for your plantings or pathways. The mulch will help shield your soil from direct exposure to sun, wind, dry air, and other abrasive forces. Before applying the leaves as mulch, remove weeds and turf from the area you plan to mulch and loosen compacted soil so that water and air can reach plant roots. Then, place leaves (ideally shredded) around individual plants, or apply it to paths and play areas as soft “paving.” Mulch will help slow the evaporation of soil moisture, suppress weed growth, moderate soil temperature, and impede soil erosion.

Be mindful that some leaves, such as pine needles and oak leaves, are highly acidic and may alter your soil pH. So, if the mulch you use on your garden beds is made from highly acidic leaves, you may need to make some pH adjustments in the next growing season. Also, some trees are allelopathic, which means that they impede plant growth, so you will want to avoid using leaves from these trees as mulch on your plantings. It is fine to use these leaves as mulch for your pathways. Common allelopathic trees include black walnut, eucalyptus, sugar maple, tree-of-heaven, hackberry, American sycamore, black cherry, red oak, black locust, and American elm.

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Compost Your Leaves

You can also rake leaves up, bag them, and keep them on hand as a source of "browns" to balance out "greens" in your compost bin over the winter. A well balanced compost bin that contains the right combination of browns and greens will decompose faster and ensure that your final product is rich in organic content.

You can also make a compost pile that is solely leaves, however the final product will not be as high in organic content as compost made from a mixture of greens and browns. Compost made wholly from leaves will primarily build soil structure and will better your soils ability to hold moisture. It can also help boost the presence of beneficial organisms in your soil.

If possible, shred your leaves for faster decomposition and to aid in maintaining optimal air flow in your compost bin.

If you have more leaves than you can use, check with your local NYC Compost Project site to see if there is a community garden that is accepting fall leaves. Also determine if the Department of Sanitation is collecting fall leaves.

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