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Raking, mowing fall leaves

Remove large leaves from the lawn or chop them into tiny bits.</p>
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Remove large leaves from the lawn or chop them into tiny bits.

Leaves that fall this time of year are either a blessing or a curse, depending on your point of view. A couple of years ago, we talked about fall leaves on Fox 59′s Hoosier Gardener.

Sure, the leaves are usually a bit of a chore, but how much of one depends on the method you use to dispose of the leaves. Leaves, especially large ones like maple and sycamore, left on the lawn will smother and kill the grass, or contribute to fungus and insects, so it’s recommended that something be done.

The best way to get rid of leaves is to chop them up into tiny bits and pieces with a mulching mower and leave them on the ground. As the leaves decompose, they add organic matter,  improving the quality of the soil and adding trace amounts of nutrients. Sometimes it may take a couple of passes with the mower to chop up large leaves.

Lawn on left has had leaves mulched with mower. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Lawn on left has had leaves mulched with mower. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

The second best way is to use a bagger with the mower. The mower will chop up the leaves into tiny bits, which can be added to the compost pile, mixed into the soil when making new beds this fall or added as a mulch around plants. This method improves the soil and keeps the leaves out of the waste stream. Leaves chopped and bagged by the mower also can be dumped into bags for pick up if your municipality composts them.

Another methods is to rake the leaves close to a garden bed, then run the mower so that the chopped leaves blow into the bed, adding instant organic matter and mulch.

Bag leaves when municipalities pick up for composting. (C) Fotolia

Bag leaves when municipalities pick up for composting. (C) Fotolia

Another way is to rake the leaves for composting, or bagging for pick up, only if your municipality collects and composts them. By the way, raking leaves burns about 240 calories per hour.

Windrow composting. Photo courtesy Washington State University

Windrow composting. Photo courtesy Washington State University

In Indianapolis, the Department of Public Works collects about 9 million tons of leaves in fall and composts them in large windrows. The following spring, the compost is given away free to citizens.

Here’s the schedule for Indianapolis DPW’s fall leaf collection. Each household can place 40 bags a week for pick up, including leaves and regular household trash. The latter is limited to 10 bags. Bags of leaves should be set apart from regular trash items.

Compost can be picked up next spring at the Southside Landfill, 2577 S. Kentucky Ave., (317) 247-6808.

It is against the law to burn leaves in Marion County.

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