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Handling fall leaves — easy and educational

  • 10/15/2020 12:51:00 PM
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DES MOINES --Fall leaves are beautiful – until they pile up in your yard. But don’t send those precious nutrients up in smoke. Instead, put them to good use. Your leaves, branches and other landscape materials can nourish your lawn, garden or community. It’s as easy as 1 – 2 – 3: 

  1. Compost.
    Composting leaves and food scraps is a great way to turn this waste into nutrients for your garden. It’s also a great way to get kids outside, learning practical hands-on science. They can start by researching the many types and sizes of compost containers. (For tips on low-tech ways to compost, see a DNR tutorial.) Managing the compost pile provides exercise and a learning opportunity. A good compost mix needs both carbon (dead or dry leaves) and nitrogen (green materials like food scraps and grass clippings). Carry the project forward to spring, and use finished compost to enrich the soil and gardens.
     
  2. Mulching.
    Your lawn will love you if you chop up and leave your leaves in place. Leaves are a free and natural fertilizer and they add organic matter to enrich your soil. Use your regular lawn mower. Or use a mulching lawn mower to shred and mix leaves and grass into your yard.
     
  3. Bag it.
    If you have too many leaves or branches to compost, check with your community to see if they collect yard waste or have a drop-off site. Sometimes there’s a fee, but the upside is that anyone can pick up composted materials for their yards or gardens.

Burning leaves seems to capture the smell of autumn. But breathing leaf smoke pulls pollutants such as carbon monoxide, soot and toxic chemicals into your lungs. While it may smell good, smoke is especially harmful to children, the elderly and those with respiratory problems such as asthma. Turning leaves into nutrients is the healthy way to protect your and your neighbor’s lungs.

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