published Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Mulching leaves sometimes makes more sense than raking

You should shred your leaves with the lawn mower instead of raking them, advises nationally known gardening expert Melinda Myer.

"As long as the grass blades can be seen [through] the leaf pieces, the lawn will be fine," she said in a news release.

The shredded leaves will break down, adding nutrients and organic matter to the soil, Myer said.

Tim Holcomb, owner of Holcomb Garden Centers in Chattanooga and Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., said it's OK to mow leaves if there are not too many.

"Some trees don't have a large quantity of leaves, and you can chop them up with a mower and that will be fine," Holcomb said. "But larger shade trees would drop so many leaves that the quantity would be too thick and detrimental for the lawn. In that case, I suggest creating a compost."

Holcomb pointed out that one rarely sees grass in a wooded forest.

"If you have nice grass, pick up the leaves," he said.

Myer offers the following tips for recycling leaves.

1- Bag any leaves you don't want to leave on the lawn, and add them to flower beds and vegetable gardens. They will, break down over winter, improving the soil.

2- Use any remaining shredded leaves as mulch around perennials, trees and shrubs. The shredded leaves help conserve moisture, moderate temperature extremes and reduce weed problems. And once decomposed, they help improve the soil.

3- Start a compost pile by mixing fall laves with other yard waste. Don't add aggressive weeds or those gone to seed.

4- Leave insect- and disease-infested or chemically treated plant debris out of leaves intended for a compost pile. Don't add fat, meat and other animal products that can attract rodents.

5- Moisten and occasionally turn the pile of leaves to speed up the decomposition. Soon it will turn into a wonderful soil conditioner to put back into the landscape.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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