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What to do with fall leaves

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What to do with fall leaves: compost, mulch, or create decorations

Autumn has arrived: the majestic yellows and oranges floating down from those gnarled tree branches, a crisp chill to the air, the incoming winter wonderland soon to be afoot. It's beautiful, yes. Awe-inspiring, definitely.

But messy as well. Your yard is covered in dead foliage: so, what to do with those fall leaves? Fortunately, there are a variety of eco-friendly ways to dispose of the dropped foliage. From composting your piles to using them as mulch to protect vegetables during the winter months, discarded autumn leaflets can do wonders for your garden.

In addition, arts and crafts can benefit from those left over piles of foliage. For more creative types, they provide an outlet for creativity as well as a way in which to rid your lawn (and neighborhood) of the mess. Below, we'll take a look at the variety of options available to you.

Compost Options

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) was created in 1970 in order to combine all state programs into one single entity which would oversee the protection of the environment. Thus, they are a relatively solid source for anything "green" related.

For that excess foliage drop off, they offer a variety of ways in which to dispose of the bulk without the need for burning. The first is to use the excess as compostable material. The DEC website offers a Composting at Home page and a helpful PDF which answer questions such as:
  • What can I compost?
  • How do I make a compost pile?
  • What exactly is compost?
  • Ways in which to start your compost pile, and more

In essence, composting is the way nature recycles materials and nutrients back into the soil, according to the DEC page. By doing this, these nutrients can thus be re-used by living organisms.

Shredding will help to speed up the timetable for decomposition, as well. A large bag of leaves will eventually decompose, but it will take some time. That's why shredding your lot can help to speed up the process.

One can look to rake them into small piles and then mow the area with a mulching mower -- Make multiple passes and shred to your heart's content. According to the DEC, one can add up to 3/4" (deep) of shredded excess foliage to their lawn in order to help add those nutrients back into the soil.

Mulch Options

Another option is to use the dropped foliage as mulch. In layman's terms, mulch is a layer of material which is used to cover bare soil or placed around existing plant life in your garden or yard. Leaflets can help to protect vegetables in the winter time, as well as eventually turn into compost, thus enriching both one's soil and garden.

Municipal Compost Collection

Those looking to dispose of their piles can check with their local recycling coordinator if there are options to a) receive curbside pickup of your piles or b) bring one's piles to a central processing plant. Each state may offer their own spin on this disposal process, so check with local officials.

No Burning

Burning creates smoke which can irritate a person's lungs, as it produces dangerous compounds when lit. Added to this, burning has the potential to spark a real fire. So work towards the greener options listed above instead of burning.

For Those Creative Souls

For more ideas for what to do with fall leaves in a more creative context, head over to the Do It Yourself website. There, you'll find ideas on creating wreaths, bouquets, cards, baskets, and more. For those uninterested in using excess leaflets for mulch or compost purposes, these little ideas from the DIY site offer a good way for family and friends to get together, be creative, and get rid of those pesky leaves once and for all.

Resources: What to Do with Fall Leaves. 10 Things to Do with Autumn Leaves.

Above photo attributed to MSVG

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