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MADISON – Fall is a beautiful time to enjoy Wisconsin’s outdoors. The air feels crisp and cool, and colorful leaves decorate the landscape. It’s also the time of year for raking your leaves, and state officials are reminding people that proper management of leaves and other yard materials this autumn can help maintain Wisconsin’s natural beauty.
State air quality and fire rules restrict the burning of yard materials in Wisconsin. A growing number of communities also have local rules in place that further restrict or completely prohibit burning yard materials.
“Methods such as mulching leaves on site and composting yard materials allow residents to protect the state’s air quality,” says Brad Wolbert, recycling and solid waste chief at the Department of Natural Resources. “They also reduce costs for local governments and households.”
Using leaves for mulch and compost can also enrich the health of lawns and gardens, save money on fertilizer and save municipalities money on yard waste collection. This fall, manage leaves, branches, grass clippings and other yard trimmings with one of the following easy methods.
Mulching leaves in place
Leaves are rich in carbon, phosphorus, and potassium – all essential nutrients needed by plants, including turf grasses. Mow leaves along with the grass during fall, and leave the finely chopped material on your lawn. Another option is to rake up the leaf pieces and use them as winter ground cover for gardens and around trees and shrubs. This will help insulate plants and protect them from winter freeze damage.
If you would rather compost your leaves, there are many easy structures you can build to start a compost pile. Be sure to maintain a mix of “browns” – fallen leaves, dead plants, dried grass clippings, soil paper, sawdust and small branches – and “greens” – fresh grass clippings, green plants and food scraps including coffee grounds. Finished compost can be sprinkled into lawn soil or used in a garden to provide organic material and nutrients. Ultimately, this builds soil organic content and reduces the need for fertilizers.
Keep leaves handy for next season
Dry leaves keep well in plastic bags, and many people keep a few bags of leaves from the fall to add “browns” to their compost piles throughout the year. You can also use your stored leaves for mulch.
For additional tips on fall yard care, search the DNR website for Recycling for All Seasons.