5 Questions: Falling folliage
Leaves are beginning to pile up in front of many area homes. Dennis Patton, horticulturist with the Johnson County K-State Research and Extension office, discusses options for handling all those fall leaves below.
Q: Why should homeowners try to compost or mulch their leaves rather than putting them in the trash?
A: About 11 percent of the Johnson County landfill is being taken up with yard waste, which is basically yard clippings or leaves, so getting those out of the landfill would extend its life. The county is talking about banning yard waste from the landfill, and this would be a good fall for people to start playing with their options, what they’re going to do.
Q: What options do homeowners have to dispose of leaves?
A: Your options are three or four depending on whether you’re a gardener or not. One is to do what we call mulch-mow the leaves into the lawn, where they are chopped or shredded into the lawn. You can do that with a good two or three inches of leaves. If they’re filtering down into the grass, and you can’t really see that much debris or leaves, just let them go.
Q: What about those who have too many leaves to mulch mow?
A: If they get so thick they’re piling up on the lawn, you can collect them by doing what’s called double mowing. Mow over them the first time like with mulch mowing, and then add the bagging attachment on the second pass, so the leaves are chopped up real fine. You can probably decrease the volume of leaves two to three times, plus some of the leaves are mulched into the lawn. With the chopped-up leaves, use those as mulch, put them around your trees and shrubs.
Q: What is an option for a gardener?
A: If you are a gardener, you can easily till mulched leaves into the soil of your garden, and over the winter months they will compost under the soil. That’s what’s known as in-ground composting.
Q: What about composting?
A: It’s a very viable option, but it does create a little more work because then you have to create a compost pile. That can be as simple as piling them up, or you can create a compost cage. I’d recommend a 50/50 mixture of leaves and grass clippings. Composting is going to slow down a little over the winter months, but even in the winter the pile will probably decrease by about half. More information about composting can be found on our Web site, ksre.ksu.edu.