County Extension Agent

Well we have made it through the hot months and it is beginning to cool off, but there is still one major chore to accomplish with those trees. Taking care of all those leaves as mother nature drops them all around. If any of you have ever visited with me about the landscape at the office you know that I do not care for the Cotton Wood trees on the west side of my office. Yes, they do provide shade from the hot, west sun in the summer. But, they are very messy trees. Always losing limbs and dropping leaves. And that brings us to this weeks article “What to do with all those leaves.”

It has been estimated during a year at least 20 percent of the solid waste that is generated by Texans is grass clippings, tree leaves and other landscape waste. While it is easy to bag those materials and put them out by the curb, it takes up valuable landfill space and takes valuable nutrients away from the landscape. The leaves of trees contain approximately 50-80 percent of the nutrients a plant extracts from the soil and air during the growing season. When you add that to the fact that trees covering an acre of forest can produce up to two tons of leaves each fall, a person needs to hang on to those leaves.

Now that we have decided that we want to keep this valuable source of nutrients and organic matter in our yards, what do we do with it? The first and the easiest step is to mow the leaves without catching them when there is light covering. This is often most effective when using a mulching mower, and helps return organic matter to your yard.

The second alternative is to use the leaves as mulch around trees, vegetable gardens, flowerbeds, etc. Around trees and shrubs apply a 3-6 inch layer of shredded leaves. For annual and perennial flower beds apply a 2-3 inch mulch of shredded leaves, and for vegetable gardens put a 3-5 inch layer between rows to function as a mulch and pathway.

Another alternative is to use the leaves for soil improvement in vegetable gardens and flowerbeds. A 6-8 inch layer of leaves tilled into the soil will help improve aeration and drainage in clay soils and improve water and nutrient holding capacity in sandy soils. The final alternative is a composting bin. Composting leaves, grass clippings, livestock manure, paper, straw and other organic materials is a great way to make your own organic matter to help out your landscape year around.

As you can see there are several alternatives to bagging those leaves that are beneficial to your landscape. By more effectively utilizing mother nature you can save time, energy and money. So get ready to enjoy this fall season and begin your preparations for a great gardening season next year.

For more information, contact the Somervell County Extension Office at (254) 897-2809.