Living in the Midwest, I have some beautiful deciduous trees in my yard, a nice mix of oak, a few young varieties, and one ancient ash tree. For eleven months out of the year I love to watch the seasons come and go through the trees: snow lingering in the crook of the trunk, the squirrels chasing each other over freshly budding branches, the summer wind whispering through the full canopy. In the fall, the leaves turn beautiful autumn hues: deep golds, brilliant oranges, warm reds. Then the leaves drop and float and shimmer to the dormant grass below, and that’s when the romance with my deciduous trees comes to a screeching halt. I have to spend several weeks raking, raking, raking. Bagging, bagging, bagging. And then what? Then you’ve got a big ol’ pile of leaf bags that need to go somewhere.
Hauling away Leaves
If your upbringing was anything like mine, you will have a predisposition to be cheap…er… frugal…er… budget conscious. Yeah, yeaah, that’s it. Let’s go with budget conscious. Being budget conscious, I do not like to pay for certain things like bottled water, air in my tires, or leaf removal. Yet every fall I am faced with the same dilemma; I need to get rid of leaves, lots of leaves.
If you were not brought up by my dad, and you feel so inclined, you can pay a yard waste company to pick up your bagged leaves. Check with you local and state regulations regarding bagged yard waste. For example, in Minnesota, it is now the law that all yard waste that is picked up by a hauler or recycler must be bagged in bio-degradable bags. Fees for this service will vary from region to region, but you will find most communities offer some form of yard waste removal. You will also need to check with individual yard waste haulers to see what is allowed in the yard waste bag. Usually you can get rid of leaves, grass clippings, small branches, and plant-based food waste. Some cities offer a year round pick-up; others offer seasonal options, with fees set accordingly. This option makes sense for people who don’t have a truck to haul yard waste away.
Another option for getting rid of leaves, which is free in most communities, is to haul them away yourself. Almost every community now has a collection site set up just so residents can get rid of leaves and other yard waste like small branches and grass clippings. Most city or county websites will have links telling you the drop-off locations, the hours of operations, what is and is not accepted, and whether or not they offer mulch or compost (sometimes for free). Even if the compost or mulch isn’t free, you will still feel all green and good inside, knowing you contributed to the recycling process. By getting rid of your leaves at a municipal site you are doing something good for the environment.
Mulch to Get Rid of Leaves
If you really want to feel good and green inside, you can get rid of leaves by not getting rid of leaves. Huh? Say that again. Yep. Here’s where it gets really good, as in you don’t have to pay anyone to haul them away, nor do you have to haul them away for free (but really it costs you gas to drive to the recycling site. I told you I was budget conscious). Here’s the best part: You don’t even have to rake! (I’ll just wait right here while that sinks in…) One of the easiest and best ways to get rid of leaves is to mulch them back into your grass. All you will need is a lawn mower with a mulching function and some sharp blades. It turns out that mulched leaves are the perfect *free* fertilizer for your lawn. Mow over the downed leaves until they are about the size of a dime. This will help the leaves settle down closer to the soil where the worms and other decomposers can get at them and start to do the heavy lifting for you. By spring those happy little campers will have gotten rid of all of your leaves. If you DID want to automate this process, they apparently sell electric leaf mulchers at Amazon.
You don’t have to mulch all of the leaves into the grass. You can get rid of leaves by spreading the mulched mixture over flower beds too. In fact, you don’t have to chop this mulch as finely. One exception would be oak leaves, since they are pretty hardy and don’t break down as quickly; so go ahead and mulch them done to dime sized particles. This is a great way to protect perennials from harsh winters and deep freezes. Throughout the winter and spring the naturally decomposing leaves will become rich nutrients for thriving summer flowers. When you need to get rid of a lot of leaves, this is a great way to spread the wealth.
Just be sure not to keep the mulch near the base of trees — that can cause tree fungus issues. Spread it out.
Composting to Get Rid of Leaves
If you still have leaves to get rid of, try composting some of them. There are a number of ways to compost yard waste. Compost bins usually need a balanced mixture of leaves and grass clippings, so layer some leaves in with the grass, twigs, and plant-based food waste. You can speed up the process; get rid of leaves quicker, by throwing in some manure from your favorite vegetarian animal, like maybe some bunny poop. By spring you should have a beautiful, rich additive for your flower beds. If space is limited where you are, we’d recommend a solution like a composter such as the Worm Factory from Amazon.
And just for the fun of it, you can get rid of leaves by making leaf mold. This option is a twofer. Start by stuffing leaves, grass clippings, and other yard waste into decorative bags. Each September you can start the search for the plastic leaf bags that are decorated like jack o’lanterns. Before you tie off the bag, sprinkle the leaves with a little water. Tie off the bag, shake it up, poke a couple of air holes in it, and then let it sit for six months. Obviously, after you have enjoyed the yard decorations, you will have to move the bags from the front yard so your neighbors don’t think you’ve gone bonkers. Just set the bags aside until spring. When spring comes, you should have a nice soil conditioner for your flower beds. Mixing this leaf mold into the soil should help with water retention.
Adding dried leaves to big containers is another great way to get rid of leaves. Add a layer of dried leaves in the bottom half of pots and containers before adding the potting soil. This will improve drainage in the planters, while offering added nutrition as the leaves break down, and save on the amount of soil needed in the planter. You can also get rid of leaves when planting bulbs in the fall. Before putting bulbs in the ground, stuff some dried leaves in the hole, toss in a bit of soil, add the bulbs, and top off with another layer of dried leaves and top soil.
It seems there are many ways to get rid of leaves that don’t require back-breaking raking and bagging. Instead of dreading the first tumbling leaf, you will be able to enjoy each leaf as it spins and glides to the earth. Perhaps my deciduous tree love affair can be year round after all.