Fall Lawn Care: What to Do with Fall Leaves

October 08, 2012

Fallen LeavesLooking up at Portland’s tree canopy, it’s incredible to think about the sheer volume of leaves that will soon be clogging up gutters and piling up on sidewalks. In a natural setting, those fallen leaves serve important purposes – they add nutrients to the soil and offer natural ground insulation. In an urban setting, however, the autumnal shedding of leaves can pose a real hassle for everything from drainage to lawn care.

Portland provides a leaf removal service for a fee to keep city streets and storm drains clean and safe. Assuming you live within one of the city’s 28 leaf districts, you can rely on this service by simply raking all of your leaves into the street. (To figure out if your home is included in the leaf removal area, enter your address here.)

If you can prove that you removed your own leaves, or hired a lawn care/maintenance service to do it for you, the City of Portland will waive your leaf pickup fee. An application and affidavit are required to opt out of the leaf removal service; click here to learn more about this process.

To avoid this fee, or if your home is not in a leaf district, you can carry out your own leaf removal by selecting one of the eco-friendly options listed below.

Option #1: Use fallen leaves as mulch.

This is one of the simplest approaches to eco-friendly lawn care. Portland gardeners can rake leaves into piles and then redistribute them as an even layer over landscaped beds. Mulching is healthy for your garden and a manageable way to handle leaves. One tip: Shredded leaves are more effective and more visually appealing. To shred leaves, make sure they’re in a dry pile and run a mulching mower over them a few times. In the spring, turn last autumn’s mulch into the soil.

Option #2: Shred leaves and add them to compost.

CompostGuide.com has estimated that the leaves of one large shade tree can provide up to $50 worth of plant food. Mulching leaves directly into beds is one way to preserve this value, or you can shred leaves and add them to your compost pile. Remember to include a variety of green and brown materials in your compost pile. When performing lawn care maintenance, for instance, you should regularly layer nitrogen-rich lawn clippings into your compost pile.

Option #3: Contract for leaf removal.

Your landscaping service can handle leaf removal for you as part of your regular lawn care. Portland residents who contract with Landscape East & West for weekly lawn service typically have this service included in their annual contract.

[Photo by: MSVG, via CC License]