Sprinkles of gold, red and brown leaves now flake the ground of our yards, communities and parks. This creates a captivating landscape but can also be a nuisance to those trying to maintain these grounds. Some people can only see debris and more work rather than the greatness of what mother nature throws at us.
Myth #1: When leaves fall, we should rake and bag
Is nature harassing us to clear the mess left behind by deciduous shrubs and trees? I would emphatically say no. Not all yard spaces need to be spick and span.
Of course, get rid of wet leaves from pathways as it is not amusing to slip and risk injury. But it is very important to keep other parts of your yard as is until new growth sets in from below. Leaf abscission is unavoidable but is a boon for legions of life forms such as butterflies, toads, earthworms and others which form their habitat underneath. Wrecking their playground by raking and blowing will disrupt their life cycle and eliminate beneficial friends. Just wait until the spring before you tidy up these areas.
The lawn does require extra scrutiny because if you ignore it, you could be impairing later growth, attracting pests and abetting disease. Mowing with a mulching blade would quickly and painlessly granulate the pesky leaves away from the surface, and saving you hours of raking and blowing. Plus, the grinded leaves become an organic fertilizer for the lawn, which also saves money. About 25% of the nutritional needs for your lawn can be met this way.
Myth #2: Composting is a dirty and smelly process
Composting is actually a great way to reuse some nature’s nutrient-rich refuse at a later date. Most people worry that a compost bin for the backyard will smell funny, attract pests and require high maintenance. It does not have to be such a tedious task.
In simple terms, plan the materials within your compost bin to be one-third wet to two-thirds dry to reach the right moisture consistency that is similar to a tightly squeezed hand towel. Wet materials add nitrogen (N), and can include kitchen scraps, grass clippings and manure. Dry materials provide carbon (C), and can include twigs, newspaper, cardboard, fallen leaves and bark.
Start small by using a regular plastic container lying around and poke some holes for air flow. Layer the bottom of the container with twigs to provide aeration and sandwich layers of organic material, switching between wet and dry content. During the decomposition process, every now and then give it an adequate shake and a twirl to avoid compactness and pull in more oxygen. In a few months, a nutritious, gorgeously crumbled compost will be ready.
If you want a more natural composting pile, then dig a large enough hole, drop in the contents and cover with dirt. Avoid blending in meat, dairy and cooked food scraps as that is an open invitation for vermin.
If your compost does smell, it is either imbalanced on the wet-to-dry ratio, or not getting enough oxygen circulation. Too much wet material will cause odor from rot and too much dry material will slow decomposition.
Reclaim your space during this wondrous season and salvage organic resources to reduce pressure on our landfills. Getting our hands dirty takes getting used to, but once composting becomes routine and you leverage it later as fertilizer, you will wonder why you started doing this so late.