Leaves! Trash or Treasure?

Its that time of year and we all see people either hoarding or frantically trying to get rid of their leaves. Trash trucks will see lots of bags of leaves. Some cities encourage composting and will give you special bags and pick them up and compost them. Big box stores are promoting bags for leaves (lawn and leaf litter). Rakes are being sold. Lawn services are promoting leaf removal. Some people will be having trees removed from their yards due to the leaves that fall in their yards. Lots of tree trimming going on. Mowers with baggers will be bought and used to suck up every sign of a leaf in pristine yards.

Some very rare folks will attach a mulching blade to their mowers and mulch the leaves… its been awhile since ive seen those blades being promoted.

Here is the definition of a lawn and leaf bag- 30 Gal. Paper Lawn and Refuse Bags (5-Pack) feature 2-ply wet-strength paper construction for durability and tear resistance. The bags are suitable for moist or dry refuse disposal.

Even defining the carrier of leaves suggests that leaves are refuse(garbage) and the goal is disposal.

However… some people use them in their gardens and around their trees as mulch… and here is what can possibly happen if you do that.

If you want to skip 2 years of experimenting… Growit Buildit has been putting leaves on his garden for 2 years and documents how it has affected his soil. And talks about yields etc.


We rake the leaves from our five big maples out to the curb. The city picks them up and takes them to the municipal composting facility, and then sells the compost for $20-$28/nominal yard - but they habitually overfill my trailer.


Treasure. I mostly use the leaves under my muscadine vines. Helps control grass and makes a good compost over a year or two. I also use grass clippings when I know that no herbicides were used on it.


I mow it up/bag it and use it as mulch/compost.


My thought process is that mother nature is smarter than me… and i leave (ha ha) them on top of the ground.

Perhaps the origin of the word Leaves…means to leave them alone?

Old English lǣfan ‘bequeath’, also ‘allow to remain, leave in place’ of Germanic origin; related to German bleiben ‘remain’.

“Pound for pound, leaves contain twice the mineral content of manure,”

" trees lose a lot of leaves—roughly 3,600 pounds in a tree’s lifetime"


Sugar maple leaves… good calcium content… normally the last thing i add to my compost pile that will be used next spring summer.

I have a chipper shreader… plan to shred these b4 adding to the pile.


Do you worry about rodents girdling the tree underneath the leaves?


I use a mulching mower when the grass is growing and it isn’t wet.

Leaves lay where they fall., except maybe the driveway.


Love leaves. We pile up fall leaves in an out-of-the-way spot and let them decay over the winter. Rotting leaves make excellent mulch—on sweet potatoes, peanuts, tomatoes and many other plants.


Around here, towns tend to give it away to residents, but my town doesn’t make it. I just paid $52 dollars a yard to have 10 delivered to my property to be here when I install orchards. I always top a tree planting with about 5 cubic feet of compost and then at least an equal amount of shredded wood mulch. 2 or 3 years ago it was $32 delivered so I’m thinking about making it myself. By the time it’s ready it may be useful to bury me in it.


The 2 month long leaf rodeo that goes on in my region is insane by my def. But then so is my species. The wealthier the neighborhood the louder the constant noise of leaf blowers. Of course, in a couple years these neighborhoods will require electric blowers so the insanity will at least be quieter.


I just searched for “lawnmower” on lowes.com and the available filtering options include “mulching capable”:


A common sentence in the mower’s descriptions is: “3-in-1 convertible deck lets you side discharge, mulch, or rear bag.”

The only time I attach the bag to our mower is in the fall… To catch the mulched up leaves from the yard, so I can dump them around my fruit trees.


I suspect that if you simply blocked off the discharge chute of your mower it would function pretty well as a mulcher without a kit or special blade.


i have a oregon gator blade installed on my cub cadet. its a heavy duty blade that mulches very well. i let it all compost on the lawn. by spring its gone. i go fill a doz. bags from the local university pile. they dont mind as they give it away the next spring anyway. i pour them all out in a 12in layer on my lawn and run them over with my tractor several times then shovel them on my compost pile and cover with a tarp. i use it for mulch the following spring.


How about other things to consider?

Many wildlife species use the leaf layer as their primary habitat including salamanders, chipmunks, wood frogs, box turtles, toads, shrews, earthworms, millipedes, and thousands of insects species.

Many butterfly and moth species overwinter in the leaf layer, including luna moths, great spangled fritillaries, woolly bear caterpillars (which become Isabella tiger moths), and red-banded hairstreaks. Some species overwinter as eggs, some as pupae, and some as adults. In the case of moths, 94 percent of species rely on the leaf layer to complete their lifecycle. If you rake up and throw away all of your leaves this fall, you’ll be getting rid of important habitat for these beautiful and beneficial insects, many of which are pollinators.

Many bird species forage in the leaf layer searching for insects and other invertebrates to eat, including wood thrushes, towhees, robins, sparrows, common yellowthroats, bobwhites, and wild turkeys. The vast majority of our backyard birds — some 96 percent — rely on those butterfly and moth caterpillars as the primary food source for their babies during the nesting season. If you remove all of your fallen leaves, there will be fewer of these insects in and around your yard and fewer birds too. Some birds, such as ovenbirds, also nest in the leaf layer on the ground rather than in the branches.


treasure for sure !

the worms loves them and improve the soil.


Treasure! I have been mulching with leaves for at least 10 years on this property. It is my hands down favorite material to work with as far as mulching is concerned.


Recently read a post/rant from an orchard owner and his stance is that he hates worms…says that they are non-native/invasive… and they interfere with the carbon that he adds to his orchard.

I am a worm lover and advocate…but if you google ‘are earthworms native to North America’ a big can of worms can be opened… :crazy_face:

As far as leaves are concerned…i think microbes are the hero of the day in turning them into usable matter for roots to absorb nutrients.

Can you vermicompost with worms? sure. I do.

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We use a combination of mower with mulching blades and a leaf vacuum shredder aptly named a billygoat. It is self propelled (thank goodness) but can be a beast. It compacts the leaves tremendously and I think it’s an excellent mulch.

Our former neighbor who I was very fond of was once employed as a groundskeeper at a golf course. I was out pretty much every day and so was he. I watched him fertilizing, watering, bagging, and disposing (repeat daily) of his grass and leaves. There was something maddening about the circular logic of it.

He did have a pristine yard. We used to kid each other when one of us was out working and didn’t see the other one doing the same. :blush:

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Leaves are gold but why do so many people bag them? Use a leaf blower and put them where i want them. The soil gets richer every year.