The following blog post was written by PleasantvilleRecycles.org members Sharon AvRutick and Christin Ogryzlo.
Autumn trees provide a myriad of colors for all of us to enjoy. But brilliantly colored leaves will soon start to fade, dry up, and fall on our lawns. What to do with those leaves has recently become a hot topic.
PleasantvilleRecycles, among other organizations, has promoted leaf mulching via the “Love ’Em and Leave ‘Em” program. We are happy to report that Westchester County and various local municipalities including Irvington, Scarsdale, Greenburgh, New Castle and Bedford have officially adopted “Love ’Em and Leave ‘Em” as an environmental and cost-saving initiative, focusing on the benefits of reducing organic yard waste. This program also reduces the amount of leaves in the waste stream.
Creating leaf mulch is easy: Take the grass catcher off your mower and simply shred your leaves where they have fallen on the lawn. It may take a few passes, but you can mulch up to 18” of leaves in-place. Another option is to use a leaf shredder. The shredded leaves will fall between the grass blades where Mother Nature will break them down into new soil. Mulched leaves can also be used as winter mulch on your flower and vegetable beds, underneath shrubs and around trees.
The benefits are many:
- Leaf mulching fertilizes your lawn naturally.
- It reduces the need for chemical fertilizers and store-bought mulch — saving you money in the long run.
- It improves soil biology, structure, and drainage. Plus, it increases the soil’s water retention, and reduces erosion.
- Save yourself the hassle of raking leaves or blowing them noisily around the yard. Your back will thank you for it, too.
- Leaf mulching will increase the time you will have for other fall activities.
In spite of the abundant benefits leaf mulching provides, a lot of people are still skeptical about it. Here are facts, myths, and numbers that we hope will convince you to start mulching your leaves this fall:
10:1 – That’s the reduction of volume of leaves you achieve when you mulch them with a mower or use a leaf shredder.
Myth: Leaf litter will harm your lawn – If you are referring to whole, wet layers of leaves – yes, they "tend to mat together and form a barrier that blocks free water and oxygen movement into the soil" (Cornell University). But shredding your leaves into fine pieces creates a very big surface area: think of a leaf as a deck of 52 cards. Once you shred a leaf it's like displaying all 52 cards next to each other. Shredded leaf litter is small enough that it will fall between the grass blades. These small pieces decompose over the winter and in spring insects and microbes turn them into valuable nutrients. Leaf mulching fertilizes your lawn, improving the soil. It also prevents excessive turf compaction.
60.000 – The amount of tons of leaves handled in Westchester County every fall (Oct. —Dec.) and which could potentially be eliminated as handling waste [Estimates supplied by the Westchester County DEF (Department of Environmental Facilities) based upon metrics gathered in 2010].
$100,000-$750,000 – The estimated savings “from the reduction in County yard waste tipping fees, labor overtime, fuel, and transportation costs, specialized equipment purchase and maintenance, prevention of storm drain clogging, etc.” [leleny.org].
0 – The number of trips you have to make to the curb to place your bags or blow your leaves if you mulch-in-place.
Learn more about the many benefits mulching-in-place provides at www.leleny.org. The website provides information for homeowners, landscapers, and DPW & Parks Departments.