With cooler temperatures, you should start to see some of the beautiful fall colors we enjoy: the maples are turning golden and the sumac is almost hot pink.
But most of you may not enjoy the brown layer of leaves on the lawn after the color has gone.
There are many options for managing fall leaf disposal. Although it is not recommended, if you absolutely cannot stand the look of leaves on your lawn, you can bag them and dispose of them. Some residents have the option of taking leaves, branches and other yard waste to a compost facility. If that's not available to you, here are some other options.
Whatever you do, try to keep yard waste from taking up space in landfills.
Another option is to rake and gather leaves as usual, but transport them to perennial flower beds for use as an inexpensive, natural mulch. Make sure the leaves aren’t piled too deep to suffocate the plants, 2-3 inches of mulch is sufficient. Sycamore and other large leaves may be too big to use as mulch.
You can also choose to start a compost pile at home with fallen leaves. Composting is environmentally friendly and good for many household wastes such as kitchen scraps, shredded paper, and other paper goods. Home composting is rather easy and doesn’t take any fancy equipment or containers.
To start, choose an appropriate area of the yard to make a pile. Make sure the spot is out of the way as to not be an eyesore, but close enough that it can be used easily. Then simply pile leaves, bedding material, and other waste that is removed from the home and garden.
You may choose to put up a fence of some type to hold waste in as it accumulates. Turn frequently with a shovel or pitchfork and water the pile when dry, to a spongy texture when squeezed. Do not include meat, dairy, oil, fish, or pet manure in the compost pile.
If time is not on your side, consider just mowing to incorporate the leaves. Compared with other methods, mowing is a quick and easy way to help rid your yard of leaves.
In smaller pieces, the leaves will break down better and add valuable nutrients back to the lawn. For best results, the leaves should be dry and not piled too deep. Some mowers may have a mulch setting specifically for this method.
Homeowners also can catch chopped leaves to allow the leaves to be easily distributed wherever needed. If you have several large trees and lots of leaves to dispose of, you may want to invest in renting or purchasing a vacuum shredder, which works much better than a traditional blower. Take precautions when shredding or chopping leaves with any type of machine, as damp leaves can clog equipment.
One final note
Do not use any diseased leaves as mulch. These leaves should be collected and disposed of away from plantings. Diseases can over-winter in the leaves and branches and cause disease problems in the plants the next year.
Tracey Payton-Miller is a horticulture educator for Cleveland County Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service writes a periodic column for CNHI through the The Norman Transcript. She can be reached at 405-321-4774.