Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fall Leaves: Shred ‘em & Spread ‘em

Fall is a favorite time of year for me: the smell of crisp air, the sights of crimson and gold, and the sound of crunching leaves in a great big pile. We have one maple in the front that provides enough leaves for everyone to have some fun but the leaf piles can’t last forever. Here’s another chance for you to Go Green, Save Green, and the best part is this one’s truly FREE.

According to the Knox County Recycling Coordinator, about HALF of all our local waste is green waste that could be turned into a valuable resource. This includes biodegradable products like paper & cardboard, food leftovers, and landscape waste. This time of year they are hauling off tons of leaves that would be better off if they never left your yard. Bagging leaves uses valuable landfill space, removes nutrients from the environment, and costs tax payers more money in service fees. Leaves are such a burden on landfills that some states like Minnesota have banned disposing of leaves with garbage.

There is a better solution: shred ‘em and spread ‘em! This past weekend Bob put both boys to work: Bobby fed the shredder and Devin spread the piles in the garden beds. They felt proud to be helpers and had a blast. Most of the year Bob runs over leaves with the lawn mower, which helps mix their nutrients into the soil. During fall, there’s too much volume and if left alone, matted leaves will create fungus and kill the grass sheltered from the sun.

With a leaf blower / vacuum, Bob sucks up the leaves. This shreds and shrinks them down to take up 10 times less space. Shredding leaves is essential to breaking them down efficiently. He could spread the contents around trees like mulch, but we choose to put some in our compost bin and some in the garden beds. All he has to do is periodically mix it with a shovel and they will become nutrient rich soil by spring.

According to this great website, leaves are an essential source of carbon to make compost. A good equation is 4 parts leaves to 1 part kitchen waste. I’ll be writing more about composting another time, but if you’re looking for a good place to start, check out this link. Shredded leaves also make better mulch than wood chips or shredded bark because you’ll get fewer weeds and no fungus underneath. Plus it’s FREE and you didn’t have to haul it to your house in a flatbed.

If you don’t have a shredder and you have no place to put an excess of leaves, consider dropping them off at one of Knoxville’s Natural Resources Recovery locations. They do charge a $25 / ton or $5 minimum fee, but you’ll know your waste will be turned into a valuable resource.

So go have some fun and then do something good for your yard.


  1. HI Margaret, I'm a friend of Andrea's and I love your blog. I can't wait to have a quiet house and read the coupon it :)

  2. How exciting to have a friend I don't even know! Any friend of Andrea's is a friend of mine! I look forward to hearing your feedback and please pass the blog along to those who might enjoy it.