I’m Keeping All My Leaves This Year

I decided that this year I was going to try to keep all of the leaves that fall off my tree this year instead of putting them on the curb to send them off to the city’s composting program.    For $7.50 you get five large paper bags to fill with yard wastes and they’ll haul it off.    That’s really not too bad of a deal, all things considered, but I think I could make them useful and spend $0.00 instead of $20-$30, what I’d usually spend over the course of a year.  

I have a large maple and an ash tree in my front yard.   There are no trees in my backyard, besides some young mini-dwarfs I’ve planted.    The ash drops its leaves early in the fall and the maple seems to finish right before snowfall.  The front yard gets covered, the backyard gets virtually nothing.

I think my backyard has taken a beating over the past couple years due to dogs running around in it, the lack of snowfall last year (snow protects it during the cold) and the drought this year.   I raked everything up about a month ago and spread it out all over the backyard and mowed it over.   I figured this would be good in order to get some new organic material back there and put something over the thin spots.   The maple finally dropped everything, so I raked the last of the leaves up this weekend and used them to mulch my garden beds and containers, as well as putting a small pile near my compost bins to work in over the winter and putting a ton in an area that has been torn up by the dogs.   Usually in the spring I’ll buy a bale of straw to put down in some areas that get muddy to reduce the amount of mud the dogs track back in.   This year the leaves will do the trick, at least for part of the yard.

I figured I’d still end up with way more leaves then I could use.  Turns out I was wrong.   I could use a lot more.   In fact, I might swipe a few bags of leaves off the curb on my way home from work Wednesday morning to fill in a few more spots.    I always scoffed at the idea of being able to absorb all of my leaves into my property one way or another, turns out it’s completely do-able.    It’s nice to turn something that was considered a waste product into something useful.

So I saved $20-$30, improved the health of my lawn, improved my garden beds, got more carbons to compost, I might not have to buy straw in the spring and I probably won’t get as much mud tracked into my house in the spring.   Score.


  • Rottenclam

    Congrats on this ‘seemingly’ low-value triumph, Ryan. I actually consider this one of the better stories I’ve heard in the last couple of weeks. Props to you for making all of these leaves work for you, and better yet, using ALL of them.

    The new house that my gf and I are renting is a bit of a mess from a gardening / yardwork perspective, but I did rake a huge amount of leaves (probably about 3 years worth) out of the backyard and put them into piles. We’re just not so sure what to do with them. To wit:

    a) we bought the big yard-waste bags from lowe’s, which the city gladly picks up only twice a year. Of course, we’ve missed both times…so the bags may just gather some cobwebs

    b) my gf is going to (re)set-up our worm composting farm that we had going back in SF in the basement of our house in Pittsburgh…but that thing is the size of a small Weber grill. I just cant even imagine that it would be able to get through 5 enormous piles of leaves over the course of the winter. Picturing myself dragging bags of leaves down into our basement every week seems a little weird, but heh, I’m willing to try

    c) Our property does not really need any mulch. It is either covered in ivy and/or shaded beyond belief. I’m definitely going to have to try some kind of hail-mary permaculture hack move in the coming weeks

    So from where I’m sitting, your leaf war-story sounds like a resounding success that has me feeling a bit envious

  • Ryan

    One thing I’d consider is just getting ahold of a good mulching mower and mowing as many of them up and letting them decompose all over the lawn. Although the mulching probably won’t do a lot of good for the yard, it won’t hurt it either. Maybe a bagging mower would be nice, so you can mow the leaves at the pile and then dump the bags wherever you want them. They’ll break down a little easier that way. I don’t know, it might be something to do if you’ve got an afternoon off with nice weather here shortly. Five piles might be a lot to work through within a year, but if you’re going to have any temporary raised garden beds or containers this spring I’d keep a pile or so around to use as filler material.

    What kind of trees do you have in your yard?

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