The Hamline Midway Environment Group has adapted information from the MPCA, Master Gardeners and from their own experience to get the word out that your autumn leaves are a valuable resource. Autumn leaves have nutrients or can fulfill function that is required by your lawn, compost pile, chicken run, or gardens. Sure, you can always take the material to the county yard waste compost site, but here are several eco-smart options that will benefit you for 12 months until the next fall:
- If you have a backyard compost bin, or plan to start one, save your dry leaves to use as a carbon source, or "browns". "Browns" are essential to non-smelly, active compost and must be added to vegetable scraps (aka "greens") for compost success. You cannot avoid finding a "browns" source while composting, so why not use what falls onto your yard?
- Create free and convenient garden mulch from your leaves by collecting your autumn leaves in a hoop of wire or plastic fencing. They will breakdown partly over the winter and come next summer, you will have a valuable mulch to use in your garden beds. Leaf mulch (sometimes called leaf mold) works especially well in vegetable gardens because it breaks down quickly in one season. If these leaves are mowed first they will fit into a smaller hoop, but this step is not necessary.
- Use a mower to break leaves into tiny pieces and leave them on your lawn. A leaf layer that is thin enough to still see some grass is fine for lawns and returns valuable nutrients back to the grass plants.
- If you have pets, or backyard chickens, dried leaves are a source of free and sustainable bedding. By storing bagged leaves in a sheltered location, you can omit the need to purchase and transport animal bedding.
- Whether you compost your own leaves or take them to the county compost site, it's important to make sure that you are not raking up dog waste. Dog and cat waste can carry disease and need to be disposed of properly.
You can also help keep our water and air clean by what you don't do with that pile of leaves:
- Don't throw yard waste in the trash. Mixing yard and tree waste with your trash is illegal in Minnesota.
- Don't rake leaves onto a city street or sidewalk. It washes too many leaves, and therefore nutrients, into the Mississippi River via the stormwater sewers.
- And last, don't burn large piles of leaves. Burning of twigs and yard debris releases large amounts of air pollution in to the atmosphere.