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What to Do With All of Your Fall Leaves

maxbelchenko/ Shutterstock
maxbelchenko/ Shutterstock

One of the beautiful scenes every autumn is watching the leaves change colors into vibrant shades of red, yellow, and orange. But by the end of the season, the beauty disappears as the leaves fall to the ground. Then we’re left with the dilemma of what to do with these leaves.

Like many people with a lot of trees on their property, you may be wondering how to get rid of leaves. Fortunately, you have several options, from disposing of them entirely to moving them to another location, to recycling them.  


What to do with leaves after raking

Leaf blow them

The best way to get rid of leaves is to use your leaf blower. If you live next to a wilderness area or in a rural setting, you may want to charge up your leaf blower and blow your leaves into these spaces. It may be more difficult to do this in a suburban setting, but could work if you live next to an undeveloped tract of land.

You can also use your leaf blower to move your leaves into piles, making it easier to remove them using the methods we’ll talk about below. Should you rake your leaves instead?  Depends on your body, your desired carbon footprint, and how much you like your neighbors. Using a leaf blower will be far kinder to your body, but a rake doesn’t generate the air pollutants a gas-powered leaf blower does. If you’re short on time, a leaf blower makes much quicker work of your lawn, but might disturb the neighbors a bit more.

lomiso/ Shutterstock

Bag them

If you can’t blow them into a nearby wilderness area, then you’re probably wondering what to do with leaves in the yard. A simple solution is to bag them. For a more eco-friendly leaf solution, 30-gallon paper lawn and leaf bags like the Kraft Leaf Bag are available from Amazon. You can also use biodegradable bags, like the 33-gallon bag from Reli.

Many communities will pick up your bagged leaves as part of their trash removal. You can check on your city or county’s website or give them a call to see if this is a service they offer. Waste disposal companies, like Waste Management and Republic Services, may also be an option for picking up your leaves. Additionally, junk removal companies, like 1-800-Got-Junk? and Junk King will haul away your leaves.

A third option is to post on online neighborhood message boards to see if any of your neighbors are interested in your bagged leaves. If they’re planning to compost them or use them as mulch or mold, they may want as many leaves as they can find and be willing to pick them up.

Alison Hancock/ Shutterstock

Mulch and mold

Instead of disposing of them, there are some practical,natural uses for leaves. Can leaves be used as mulch? The answer is a resounding yes. You can save a lot of money on store-bought mulch by mulching your yard leaves. To make leaf mulch, simply blow or rake your leaves into piles, then run your lawn mower over them to chop the leaves into smaller pieces. If you have a bag attached to your lawn mower, it will save you a step. You can then spread your leaf mulch in your gardens as you would other types of mulch.

Another process that takes advantage of leaves on the ground is leaf mold. You’ll be able to use all of the organic nutrients in leaves to enrich your gardens. While creating leaf mold is not difficult, it takes a long time before it is ready to be used. 

  • Blow or rake your leaves into a wood or wire bin, or a large plastic lawn and leaf bag. 
  • Once your bag is full, turn on the hose to dampen the entire pile. If you’re using a bag, you’ll want to cut some air holes into the bag. 
  • Let the leaves sit for six to 12 months, checking monthly to add water as needed to keep the leaves moist. 

If you need the process to be completed more quickly, you can chop the leaves into smaller pieces with your lawn mower. Leaf mold is especially helpful for perennial plants and vegetable gardens.

aureliefrance/ Shutterstock

Compost them

Another natural way to use your leaves is to compost them. With this, your leaves and other organic products like food scraps, can be turned into natural fertilizer over time. As with leaf mold, the process of composting leaves can take awhile. Before taking up this endeavor, you should be aware that compost piles can draw critters. That’s because, in addition to the leaves, your pile will probably also contain food scraps. Additionally, if you live in an area with an HOA, you should make sure having a compost pile does not go against any regulations.

To create a compost pile, you’ll need a three- or five-foot cube or bin. You can use a simple wire bin or a sturdier wooden bin. Then you’ll need to prep your leaves. However, not all leaves are created equal: You want to stay away from tough, waxy leaves, like those from magnolia trees, and acidic leaves, like those from oak trees. The best leaves for composting come from maple, birch, ash, beech, and cherry trees, along with fruit and nut trees. 

Once you’ve gathered your leaves, run over them with your lawn mower to create smaller pieces. Spread them in an even layer in your compost bin, then add a source of nitrogen, such as manure, vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, eggs shells, or grass clippings. Your compost pile also needs a source of oxygen, so you want to turn the pile with your shovel once a week if possible. If you see the pile is getting too dry, turn the hose on it so it is somewhat moist. You can also use a compost starter or add a compost accelerator to speed up the process. The goal is to have a final product by early summer.

The bottom line

When deciding what to do with leaves, you can call a waste or junk removal company, or you can find other uses of leaves, like mulch, leaf mold or, or compost. There’s a solution that fits everyone’s situation.

Frequently asked questions.


Are there fall leaf cleanup services?


Yes, you can hire a landscaping company to handle the entire process of gathering and removing the leaves. Or, you can gather and bag your leaves yourself and then turn to your city or county, waste disposal company, or a junk removal company to haul away your leaves.


How long does it take for leaves to compost?


If you start your compost pile in October or November when the leaves fall, and tend to it throughout the year, your compost could be ready to be used in your gardens by early summer.


Is leaf compost good for gardens?


Leaf compost is an excellent source of natural, organic nutrition for your garden. It can replace the fertilizers you may buy in stores or online.

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