Fall is approaching, and soon we’ll mark the beautiful transition to the new season as the weather starts to cool and leaves begin to fall across the country. But with the cooler temperatures also comes the tedious task of cleaning the abundance of leaves from our lawns.
We all know the process: dig out your leaf rake from the garage, make a big pile of leaves, dump them all into the trash, rinse, repeat.
However, what most people might not know is that, when combined with other forms of waste, leaves can break down with other organic material to create methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
This becomes especially unsettling when considering the fact that, according to the EPA, 10.8 million tons of yard trimmings went to landfills in 2015, accounting for roughly 8% of all waste.
Fortunately, there is a growing number of ways to recycle your leaves safely and sustainably, saving you the inconvenience of traditional methods of disposal while also protecting the environment.
Recycle Leaves with Composting
Composting is the process of decomposing organic material, including leaves and yard trimmings. Not only is composting a great way to protect the environment, but it also serves an excellent garden soil as it often increases the ability of the soil to hold water. It helps to suppress plant diseases and pests.
All composting requires three basic components: browns (dead leaves, branches, etc.), greens (grass, vegetable/fruit scraps, coffee grounds), and water. The browns contribute carbon, the greens contribute nitrogen, and the water provides moisture. The most important thing to keep in mind is that your compost should have an equal ratio of browns and greens.
A relatively simple process, composting can take place in a matter of weeks if one were merely to leave a pile of the necessary materials sitting in the open air. However, composting bins are designed to catalyze the composting process by incubating their ideal conditions. More specifically, the bins foster higher temperatures and better moisture retention that more quickly transform the materials into compost.
While there are many composting bins out there, my favorite option is the FCMP Outdoor Tumbling Composter. The original 8-sided dual-chamber composter, the FCMP bin has everything you need, whether a beginner or expert. It has a total capacity of 37 gallons, and its two separate sides allow for multiple composting processes to carry on at once. Simply insert the necessary materials, close the door, and turn 5-6 times a day.
How To Compost At Home
Recycle Leaves with Mulching
Another easy and productive alternative is to mulch your leaves. Leaf mulch can serve as an excellent fodder at the base of trees, flower pots, and gardens for the winter. Among many other benefits, leaf mulch helps maintain soil moisture by reducing surface evaporation and keeps soil temperatures consistent.
Luckily, mulching leaves is a very easy process, and there is more than one way to achieve it. The first option entails raking the leaves into a pile and then using a lawnmower to reduce the leaf clutter into dime-sized pieces. The smaller the shredded leaf mulch, the easier it becomes for the leaves to break down.
However, if you’d like to save some of the time and hassle of using a lawnmower, you can also look into purchasing an automatic mulcher. The TRIVAC 12 Amp 3-in-1 Electric Leaf Blower, Mulcher, and Vacuum from WORX offers a level of versatility and convenience that no competitor can match. The metal mulching mechanism cuts the leaves in two stages, reducing them to an 18:1 mulch ratio (18 bags of leaves mulched into 1). The TRIVAC is extremely easy to use as it weighs less than 10 pounds, and you can easily switch modes simply by pressing a button.
Cover All Your Flower Pots
Your leaves can also prove useful during the wintertime. Once your flowers die after the summer, you can add leaves to the pot beds to add insulation, moisture control, and nutrients as they break down over the winter. Furthermore, the leaves can protect the beds’ tender roots from the cold temperature and keep from too much air and water from getting into the soil.
As such, I like to throw leaves in a new whiskey barrel pot, such as one made from distressed oak. This pot in particular is finished with a UV coating, which protects the color from fading, and is delivered with drainage holes for outdoor use. Simply fill the barrel pot with dirt, toss in the leaves, and by the time spring comes around, your flowers will be ready to be planted.
There are so many ways you can put your fallen leaves to work that can save you the time and money of putting them to waste while also protecting the environment. Check out my recommendations for a composter, mulcher, and new flower pot!