Or, Love ‘Em and Leaf ‘Em.
It’s that time of year again. We comment on the gorgeous colors of the leaves of the season, but when they actually fall to the ground, our attitude seems to change. The workload associated with leaf management quickly comes to mind, but we also need to remind ourselves of the value of these fallen leaves, otherwise known as “organic landscape refuse.”
When considering your leaf management options, it is important to realize that when using any disposal method involving a landfill, you are essentially “throwing away” a valuable commodity. We are also using valuable landfill space that need not be allocated to a decomposable, usable product. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that yard waste accounts for 18% of the refuse that we historically have dumped into landfills, a figure that rises as high as 50% during the growing season.
Leaf litter can serve as a mulch layer, protecting soil from erosion factors and
moisture loss. As leaves decompose, they restock the soil with nutrients and
organic matter. Organic matter increases the amount of water a soil can hold and the
proportion of water available for plant growth. Organic matter also serves as a food source for soil organisms.
Realizing the value of yard waste, you might reconsider your own leaf management plan.
Remember that the best options are those that do not result in yard “waste.”
Leaf Disposal Options
Mulch – Placing leaves through a shredder or a mulching mower provides an excellent all-purpose mulch that can be used immediately. A two to three-inch layer of leaves provides good weed control. Shredded leaves will decompose fairly quickly.
- Compost – The addition of compost will improve the soil quality of your turf or garden. You can build a compost pile or even use a plastic trash bag to compost small amounts of leaves. Compost is not a substitute for fertilizer, but may help reduce the amount of commercial fertilizer needed. The following is a link to a VA Cooperative Extension publication about composting http://www.ext.vt.edu/pubs/envirohort/426-325/426-325.pdf
- For more information on mulching or composting leaves at home, please call the Henrico County Extension Office at 501-5160 or visit them online at http://henrico.us/extension
- Carry leaves to the landfill – Residential yard waste may also be taken to the landfill’s Public Use Areas at no charge. Leaves and clippings must be free of trash and debris and may not include plastic bags. Leaves and other lawn debris brought to the landfill are ground into mulch. Mulch is available free-of-charge to the public.
Visit http://henrico.us/utility/solid-waste/free-mulch-available for details.
- Vac Truck – The county provides vacuum service from October 29 – April 25. Vacuumed leaves are sent to private contractors who compost the leaves. There is a $30 fee for this service. Call 501-4275 to schedule a pickup.
- Bag and trash – Environmentally speaking, this option is not recommended. Bagged leaves are thrown into the landfill with other trash. However, if this is your only option, Public Utilities schedules bagged leaf collections at no charge in residential areas from October 30th until February 23rd. For the collection schedule, call 727-8770. If you wish to have bagged leaves collected outside of bagged leaf season, you may place a Bulky Waste order and they will be picked up for a fee.