Make the most of fallen leaves

Mulch them, compost them, or bag them and donate to GreenUp Ecology Park

Instead of bagging leaves this year, try mulching them instead. Leaves give a nutrient boost to lawns and gardens, getting them off to a good start in the spring. (Photo: Peterborough GreenUP)
Instead of bagging leaves this year, try mulching them instead. Leaves give a nutrient boost to lawns and gardens, getting them off to a good start in the spring. (Photo: Peterborough GreenUP)

For those of us who have large numbers of trees on our property, the raking is in full swing. Paper leaf bags have been a hot commodity in most stores as the colourful leaves are quickly coming off the trees in great numbers. While raking isn’t much fun, there are many benefits to be had from leaves, especially for gardeners.

When we remove the leaves from our yards, we’re actually interrupting the natural process that allows the return of beneficial nutrients to the soil. When the process continues on its own, worms, bacteria and thousands of other tiny organisms feast on the leaf matter, outputting rich organic material lawns thrive on.

An easy way for your lawn to reap the benefits of leaves — without having the mess associated with them — is to mulch them with your lawnmower. Mulching will reduce the volume of leaves to a more manageable size. Mulching will also ensure they won’t get caught in the wind, ending up in the neighbour’s yard or on the street. Once you’ve mulched your leaves, spread the leaf mulch evenly over the lawn’s surface.

Many properties have large trees that produce a significant number of leaves, often too many to mulch. An option for these situations is composting. Start by constructing a simple enclosure made of wire mesh and four sturdy stakes. The enclosure will prevent the leaves from getting caught in the wind and will allow them to gradually decompose. You can speed up the process by mulching the leaves first and layering with garden soil.

For those who compost kitchen scraps during the winter months, you can put our abundance of fall leaves to work in your composter. Fill two or three bags with dry leaves and store near your composter during the winter months. Gradually use the leaves to layer between food waste. By doing this, you will speed up the composting process by equalizing out the balance of carbon and nitrogen.

Yet another option to deal with the endless supply of leaves is to leave them out for pickup by the City. Leaves should be placed in large brown paper kraft bags, bushel baskets or garbage cans with the “Green Waste Only” labels clearly visible on the front. The leaves are collected and taken to the City’s compost facility where they are composted with other green waste material.

When putting leaves out for collection, there are some key points to remember, with one of the most important is not to rake leaves to the curb. Leaves become a hazard to drivers due to visibility issues, being blown on to city streets and clogging storm drains. The City must send out specialized equipment to vacuum the leaves into trucks, which is an expensive proposition.

Another good reason to stop this practice is because children love to play in those large piles of leaves. While this is a safe and fun activity in a backyard, it can quickly turn dangerous and possibly tragic if it’s too close to a street. A new bylaw will be enforced for those who continue the practice of raking leaves to the curb.

If your leaves are bagged up and you want to get rid of them right away, GreenUP Ecology Park could use them for the park’s annual leaf tuck-in happening on Saturday, October 25th. The leaves provide a protective blanket, shielding plants from the harsh winter, which is just around the corner. If you have excess leaves that are bagged up, feel free to drop them off at the park during market hours. Leaves can be dropped off on Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The park is also looking for volunteers for the tuck-in. This is a great outdoor family-friendly activity and you get the help the park at the same time. If you’re interested in volunteering, please RSVP at Eventbrite or call Karen Elcombe at 705-745-3238 ext. 202. The tuck-in runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.