Fall Cleanup

Green ways to clean up leaves

Every fall homeowners are faced with cascades of red, purple, orange, and yellow leaves falling from the sky. Amid this rainbow of autumn activity, some people still have "green" on their minds -- as in eco-friendly ways they can embark on fall clean-up.

Removing leaves from the lawn and yard is a task that few people relish. It can often mean hours spent gathering leaves and then finding ways to dispose of them. Some homeowners stack leaves at the curb in bins and bags. Others torch them in a huge bonfire. Still others scatter them to the street with a gas-powered blower. While these methods may be fast or efficient in their own ways, they are not the most environmentally friendly ways to handle leaf removal. There are some other tactics you can take.

Instead of thinking about ways to remove leaves, a greener idea is to think of ways to repurpose leaves. Even though they've passed their prime on the limbs of trees, fallen leaves can be an essential part of the ecosystem after they've fallen.

Much about mulch

Fallen leaves can make an ideal mulch, helping to deliver nutrients to the soil during the stark, winter months. Placing shredded leaves around the base of shrubbery and trees can help insulate the root systems and nourish them. Decomposing leaves also provide food to soil insects, including earthworms.

'Leaf' them alone

Unless the lawn is completely inundated with leaves, it's alright to leave some behind. Animals preparing their winter nests or hibernation can collect leaves and use them to insulate their cozy retreats. Leaves can act as fertilizer to the lawn and also food sources to insects.

Get composting

Savvy homeowners who have a compost pile to create "black gold" for their vegetables and flowers can add fallen leaves to the pile as part of the secret recipe to wonderful fertilizer. What's more, because this compost pile is likely close by, individuals won't need to cart heavy leaves long distances for disposal. Simply wheelbarrow them over to the compost heap and dump.

Rake for health

Leaf blowers may make fast work of gathering leaves to one area, but they are noisy, smelly and burn gasoline unnecessarily. Instead, look to the old-fashioned garden rake. A person won't need to visit the gym that day because raking can burn hundreds of calories in an hour and work the muscles in the arms and shoulders effectively. For those prone to blisters, wear gloves and take frequent breaks.

Ideal insulation

Leaves can insulate more than chipmunk nests. Rake some into bags to place around the perimeter of the home's foundation for a little extra weatherproofing when it's cold. Surround outdoor garden containers to insulate the soil of delicate plants that will overwinter outside or in the garage. Trees like palms or figs that need to be covered when it gets cold can get extra warmth from insulating bags of leaves.

Art projects

Although you can't use all of the leaves that fall from trees, children and adults can make home decor or art projects with some of the best of the bunch. String leaves for autumn decorating garlands on mailboxes or around doors. Press leaves between waxed paper and iron lightly to make keepsakes. Place leaves in between pieces of clear contact paper or laminating paper. Cut around the leaf design and punch a hole at the top for a hanging string. Use as a bookmark, ornament or doorknob sign.

The possibilities for green uses to autumn leaves are many. This fall homeowners can be environmentally conscious in their leaf clean-up.