The problem with leaves: they’re everywhere

Published 12:23 am Friday, September 30, 2011

The problem with leaves is that they act like mulch, smothering out any plants that are too weak to grow through. Also, a thick layer of leaves prevents water and air from entering the soil.

A build-up of leaves is no problem in nature. In fact, leaves encourage decomposers like insects, bacteria and fungi, which break down the leaves to form humus. This humus is then recycled back into the soil.

However, for homeowners, leaves are a nuisance — killing lawns, covering shrubs and being ugly.

Moving leaves

The traditional way of moving leaves is with a rake and wheelbarrow. However, more people are beginning to use leaf blowers. Be careful not to let the leaves pile up while moving them with a rake or leaf blower because big piles are harder to move.

Consider using a big tarp to move large amounts of leaves. Simply rake the leaves onto the tarp, grab the corners and drag away. Loads can get heavy, so be sure to have someone to help. It’s good to let the leaves dry out before raking because less water equals less weight to move.

Composting leaves

If you have an area in your yard to pile leaves, consider starting a compost bin. A leaf compost bin can be nothing more than a bin made of wire fencing and timbers. If you do this, keep in mind that leaves take a long time to decay.

Shredding the leaves before composting will speed up the process. The best way to do this is with a lawn mower equipped with a bag attachment. Adding manure, soil, table scraps and other biodegradable materials will help speed up the decay process as well.  Eventually you will end up with compost that can be used in your garden and flower beds.

Mowing leaves

If you don’t want to use the leaves for mulch or compost, don’t just kick them to the curb or burn them; both methods are wasteful. The easiest way to deal with leaves is to simply cut them up with a lawn mower, thus allowing the nutrients to be recycled back into the soil.

The information for this article is given courtesy of the Beaufort Master Gardeners. If you would like to become a master gardener or have any gardening questions, contact the Beaufort County Master Gardeners at 252-946-0111 or by email at