Friday, November 5, 2010

What to do with all those leaves? by Donna Duffy

We have had weeks to enjoy the beautiful fall foliage, and now we have to figure out what to do with all those leaves carpeting the lawn and yard. It’s best not to leave a thick layer of leaves on the grass for several reasons. A thick layer can block sunlight, reducing turf growth because of the shading effect. That thick layer will also hold moisture, increasing the potential for turf disease. Here area some options for managing all those leaves and keeping them out of the landfills.

Leaves are high in carbon, making them a great compost, but they are comparatively low in nitrogen and that’s what decomposing bacteria feed on. You can add nitrogen in the form of fertilizer or fresh green organic matter. Add ¼ to ½ cup of standard lawn fertilizer (without weed killer) per bushel. Or add one part dry leaves with two parts fresh grass clippings or other green garden debris. As you add leaves to the compost pile, moisten them until they are the consistency of a wet sponge. Whole leaves are better for compost than leaves that are shredded or mulched. For more information, check out the CSU Extension Fact Sheet “Composting Yard Waste” at

Mulching the leaves directly into the turf is simple and a time-saving way to manage leaves. Mulching mowers work best, but almost any rotary mower will suffice. Use safety goggles and an air mask over your mouth and nose to protect yourself from debris and dust (dry leaves mulch better than wet leaves). Set the mower blade at your normal mowing height. If you have lots of leaves, it may require more than one pass. The finer the leaf particles, the more easily they fall into the turf, leaving the grass exposed to sunlight. This is important because fall is an important time for the turf to photosynthesize and store carbohydrates.

In Jefferson County, bagged or loose leaves can be taken to the Rooney Road Recycling Center at 151 South Rooney Road. There is a charge for dropping off leaves and other yard waste, but it keeps them out of the landfills. If you take bagged leaves, you’ll need to take them out of the bags at the recycling site. Rooney Road Recycling Center is open 7 days a week except holidays. For more information, call 303-612-6262.

Some municipalities in Jefferson County have their own leaf collection programs. In Golden, yard waste collection will happen the first three Saturdays in November. Call 303-278-8600 for details.  Littleton and Englewood are continuing their annual leaf recycling program at Mountain States Wood Recyclers, 2300 West Radcliffe Avenue in Sheridan. For more information, call the Public Service Department at 303-795-3863.

 Call your local municipality to check on leaf recycling programs this fall. So, don't "leaf" them alone, compost, mulch or recycle!