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Autumn Leaves: 3 Options for Disposal

Posted by Amy Harvell on Wednesday, October 16, 2013 @ 09:46 AM

Autumn LeavesThe leaves are changing colors, the temperature is cooler, and the college football season is in full swing. Fall is my favorite time of year in Indiana!

Do you have a plan for disposal of your leaves this year? Although leaves may seem harmless, and are biodegradable, excess leaves pose a threat to water quality. In large quantities, leaves block drains and contribute to localized flooding. In small quantities, the rain washes leaves down stormwater drains and they make their way into our lakes and streams. Once they get into the water, excess leaves shade aquatic life that need sun to live; decomposing leaves release nutrients that stimulate algae growth and algae blooms can lead to fish kills.  

We’d like to share with you three options for disposing of your leaves.

Mulching Leaves

Did you know there are some less labor intensive and environmentally-friendlier alternatives to raking or burning leaves? Simply use your lawn mower to mulch leaves directly on your lawn (set the height to around 3 inches). By shredding the leaves, you are using them as a natural fertilizer returning nutrients to your lawn instead of decreasing water quality. Plus, by using the leaves, you will not have to use expensive chemicals or fertilizers on your lawn in the fall.  If you prefer to bag your grass clippings and shredded leaves, empty them on your vegetable and flowerbeds or around your trees and shrubs to help suppress weeds.  


Composting is a great way to reuse the absorbed minerals in the leaves. After a winter of composting leaves, your compost pile will provide you with nutrient-rich soil to add to your spring gardens. Here are some quick tips for composting leaves:

  1. Add nitrogen to the compost by mixing in manure or fresh cut grass.
  2. Grind or shred the leaves before adding.
  3. Turn the pile every 3 to 4 days.
Don’t have enough leaves?  I’m sure your neighbors would be happy to get rid of theirs.

Community Leaf Pick-Up Days

Many communities are gearing up for leaf “pick-up” days. If you live in the City of Lafayette, you'll be happy to know the pick-up days begin Oct. 21, and your community is disposing of leaves in an environmentally friendly way.

Lafayette Schedule

"[Of the leaves picked up], 100 percent are recycled," Brad Lumley, Lafayette Street Department, said. "[The leaves become] the best soil you can have. It's pretty impressive."

The City of Lafayette uses a leaf vacuum to collect loose leaves from curbsides; nearly 25-30 acres of leaves will be collected from homeowners. After collection, leaves are taken to a company called Soil Makers; where they are turned into compost piles and recycled for individuals and Purdue University to use on their grounds.

Check with your community to determine if leaf collection is available in your area, enjoy this beautiful time of year, and have fun raking!

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Some information was obtained from "Autumn and Stormwater".

Tags: Leaves, Compost, Autumn


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