Disposing of leaves in an environmentally friendly way: the best tips

Disposing of leaves in an environmentally friendly way is possible
Disposing of leaves in an environmentally friendly way is possible

When the season comes to an end, a lot of leaves accumulate in the garden again, which you have to dispose of bit by bit. Here you can read how you can make the tedious work easier for yourself, and why the organic waste garbage can should only be a stopgap solution for disposal.

A beautiful garden is hardly imaginable without deciduous shrub. Evergreen shrubs simply spread too much graveyard atmosphere when they are in the majority. The other side of the story is that in the fall there is a lot of foliage that has to be swept up and disposed of on a regular basis. This is a problem, especially in small gardens, because there is often a lack of composters and other storage places where you can leave the leaves and let them rot. Nevertheless, there are a few clever solutions to this problem, which we present here.

Why the organic waste garbage can is not the ideal solution

Many cities and municipalities offer organic waste garbage cans where you can dispose of your leaves as well as organic kitchen waste. But the problem is that these containers fill up very quickly in the fall. In addition, as an ecologically oriented garden lover, one should basically strive for a circular economy in the garden: Whatever leaves and other plant waste are generated on site should also be disposed of there. This is the only way to control whether the waste is actually completely recycled. After all, who knows exactly what happens to it at the landfill? In addition – keyword climate protection – unnecessary transport routes are avoided in this way.

This is how you efficiently sweep up the leaves

Raking leaves is a rather tedious job. You often feel like you can start again at one end of the garden on windy autumn days, when you’ve just swept up the last few days accumulation of leaves. Nevertheless, it is important that you do not wait too long to do this: the lawn should always be kept free of leaves, if possible. The leaves rob the grasses of light and yellow spots will appear if you wait too long to clear the leaves. Damp leaves also quickly become slippery on paths and driveways, increasing the risk of falls, especially for older people.

If you want to make your work easier, you should think about buying a leaf blower. The days of noisy internal combustion engines, which often provoke an argument with the neighbors, are now over. Today, there are modern battery-powered devices in which only the blower is acoustically noticeable. They are significantly quieter than leaf blowers with gasoline engines and yet very powerful. Thanks to increasingly efficient lithium-ion batteries, both too weak blowers and too short battery runtimes are no longer an issue. Anyone who buys an exchangeable battery and a quick charger for their device can work through the whole day if necessary.

In combination with your own photovoltaic installation, it is environmental friendly.

Regardless of whether you use a conventional leaf rake or a leaf blower, it is important that you always work in the direction of the wind – i.e. in the direction of the east with the prevailing west wind. This ensures that the freshly swept leaves are not blown right back onto the areas you have just cleaned.

On the lawn, the lawn mower is also an efficient tool for leaf removal. It collects the leaves in the collector, shreds them and mixes them with grass clippings, creating an ideal mixture that decomposes particularly quickly in the composter.

Disposing of leaves in the composter

The first place to go for all garden waste is a good, spacious compost box. When disposing of leaves in it, however, be careful not to put too much of it in. Leaves have a relatively wide C-N ratio – meaning they contain a lot of carbon but little nitrogen, which greatly slows decomposition. In addition, the leaves are compressed under pressure, so the oxygen supply, which is important for decomposition, is compromised. Therefore, you should either mix the leaves with nitrogen-rich material such as lawn clippings or, alternatively, sprinkle them in layers with horn meal or a compost accelerator. Mixing with chopped branches and twigs has also proven successful, as the coarse components between the leaves ensure good aeration.

Wire mesh leaf baskets

You can build large leaf baskets yourself from close-meshed rectangular wire webs with little effort: You just need to connect the beginning and the end of the web in several places with wire. But be careful: wear gloves when doing this so that you don’t hurt yourself on the sharp wire ends. Then place the leaf basket, which is open at the bottom, in a place in the garden where it will not interfere, and dispose of your leaves in it. Decomposition is slower in a leaf basket than in a carefully piled compost heap, but the result after a year is impressive: The result is a half-decomposed pure leaf compost, which is very suitable for soil improvement as well as for making your own planting soil. Unlike conventional garden compost, it is low in nutrients and largely lime-free. Therefore, it can also be used for strawberries as well as for rhododendrons and other salt- and lime-sensitive plants without any problems.

Use leaves as mulch in the ornamental garden

If you have suitable plantings in your garden, you don’t have to take the detour to the composter: Simply spread the leaves as mulch under shrub plantings or on ground cover areas. Among groundcovers, there are some species that are considered “leaf eaters.” Various cranesbill species, as well as foam flower and Alpine barrenwort, literally blossom when you regularly sprinkle them with foliage in the fall. They are used to this from their natural habitat in the forest or at the edge of the forest and simply grow through the layer of foliage. The leaves decompose under the plant cover and provide the soil with valuable humus.

Leaf mulch in the kitchen garden

If your vegetable garden is largely fallow in the fall, you should also cover the soil with leaves. To keep it from blowing away, you can then cover the layer with well-rotted cow manure. The heavy manure keeps the leaves in place and promotes rapid decomposition with its high nitrogen content. The layer of leaves itself protects open beds from erosion in winter and prevents overly severe temperature fluctuations that can damage soil life. In late winter, the whole thing is worked in shallowly or dug under with a spade. Especially with very loamy soils, this cure works wonders in the long run, because they become much looser, humus rich and do not crust on the surface as much during longer dry periods. But the combined nutrient and humus supply is also good for sandy soils: they become more fertile and retain moisture better.

Berry bushes, such as raspberries and blueberries, also grow much better if you cover the soil under the soft fruit with a thick layer of leaves every fall. As woodland plants, they like humus rich, loose soil with balanced water.

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