Fall Leaves and Pine Needles Produce Organic Lawn Benefits



ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) – It’s this time of year that we clearly understand why another term for fall is fall! The slightest breeze brings down a rain of shade leaves and ornamental trees. Blessed with an abundance of oak trees around my house, I have a thick layer of leaves that need attention.

An old friend of mine, Butch, used to tell me how he and his sons would spend Thanksgiving break collecting leaves, picking up branches, putting away tools and finishing all gardening chores until it was time to start over. their vegetable garden in early spring.

I don’t think that’s a bad idea at all. This Thanksgiving break may keep many of us closer to home, but hopefully we’ll look at several great options on what to do with the abundance of leaves and pine straw that we often find in. our landscapes.

A fun thing to do is to collect them in big piles so that the kids can jump in and scatter again. At least it’s the most fun for the kids. The less pleasant is to rake them and wrap them.

While bagging for curbside garbage collection is an option, I would say it is the worst choice. The problem is, all those bags of leaves from the whole community go to the landfill, wasting space and wasting a landscape asset.

These leaves are all natural, organic, weed free, and using them somewhere in your landscape is the ultimate in recycling!

One choice some people make is to do nothing and let the leaves stay on your lawn all winter. This is not good for our southern lawns. A dense layer creates a dark, damp and stagnant area where diseases can proliferate, damaging the turf.

Burning is not the best option either. When I was younger I thought it was cool to have a bunch of burning leaves, but neighbors who have allergies or asthma often find that the burning leaves make symptoms worse and make it difficult to breathe. Not too long ago, a neighbor of mine stormed in after the ashes of my burning leaves drifted down the road and settled into his newly waxed and detailed sports car. I’m not sure this relationship has recovered.

If your leaf buildup is not too thick, mowing the leaves in place is the easiest and easiest way to remove. Many people seem to be hesitant to recycle leaves in the lawn, fearing they could create thatch or other problems. But research done in many parts of the country has shown that mowing leaves in the lawn is no problem.

The best results are obtained by using a mulching mower which cuts and recuts the leaves several times. The smaller the pieces, the faster the microbes, active all year round, can attack and break down the leaves into humus. I am always amazed that they “disappear” in the grass.

You will need to make two or more passes over larger tree leaves to get a finely shredded product. I often wait to think that all the leaves are on the ground, but this might not be the easiest method. The deeper the layer, the harder it is to shred them all.

Leaf composting is an option for home gardens or new flower gardens where you place a layer of shredded leaves on the surface of the soil and let them decompose in place. A thin layer of cottonseed meal will speed up decomposition. Alternatively, you can also plow the leaf layer into the ground.

If you want to go ahead and prepare your rows of vegetable gardens, place the loose leaves in the middle of where your aisles will be. Raised rows will prevent them from blowing away. Plus, you build a walkway for next year and a composting trench to use in subsequent years.

I can’t boast enough that mulching is a great way to deal with excess leaves. You can place leaves in the paths of your garden and flower bed. Again, they provide a dry base to walk on, decompose in place, help reduce weed problems, and enrich the soil, all at the same time.

Another use for the shredded leaves is as a layer of mulch in perennial and shrub beds, and around the base of young trees. Just make sure the larger leaves are shredded first. Large dry leaves can be blown off site. When wet, the large leaves can form an almost impermeable layer, limiting the movement of air and water.

For those lucky enough to have pine straw in abundance, a really simple solution exists: rake and use as mulch. While most people in our part of the world may think it is improper to use it this way, the majority of southern states, from Louisiana to the Atlantic, use it all the time.

My friend Clay Alverson has a successful pine straw baling and selling business all over the south. We have it as a wonderful natural resource and we are turning our noses at it. If you pick up some pine straw and wrap it up, email me and I’d love to come pick it up and bring it home to use in my landscape!

Ultimately, take some time outside to clean up the pine leaves and needles, but use them in one of ways that will benefit you and are environmentally friendly.

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