Photo: Steve Bender

"The debate is raging at my house," writes a faithful reader, "what to do with all those leaves? The teenager favors a) leaving them or b) blowing them into the shrub beds. Hubby says we have to rake and bag. I took out my New Southern Living Garden Book but couldn't find any advice other than to compost, which hubby will never do. We need advice before we all get grumpy over this one!"

Grumpy's 110% guaranteed correct response: Why would you ever consult a teenager? You know their solution will have two goals: 1) Do absolutely nothing right now, because I'm texting, which I always am by the way; 2) Ignore the problem until it looks so awful that somebody else takes care of it.

As for your hubby, his reluctance to compost reflects a mistaken belief that composting is harder and takes more time than raking and bagging. JUST THE OPPOSITE IS TRUE. Let Grumpy explain.

Composting does not necessarily mean buying some high-tech compost bin, hauling the leaves back there, stuffing them in, and waiting until our country's Tricentennial Celebration for them to decompose. All you need is a mulching mower. Set it on its highest mowing setting and run over the leaves on the lawn. The mower will chop the leaves into small particles and deposit them in place. They will filter down through the grass to the soil surface, enrich your soil, feed your grass, and -- most importantly -- DISAPPEAR. This process will take MUCH LESS TIME AND EFFORT than raking and bagging. More time for watching football and drinking beer.

Grumpy must also point out that unless your community has a central composting site for city leaves, stuffing leaves in plastic bags and sending them to the landfill is a terrible environmental practice. Leaves in bags do not decompose and return their precious organic matter to the soil. They just take up space and make more landfills necessary.

Having said all this in my customary display of flawless logic, let me add that it's perfectly OK to add a bagger to your mower to pick up all of the chopped leaves if you want. Each time you fill the bag, take it over to a garden bed and use the chopped leaves to mulch your plants. Chopped leaves make great mulch! They look natural, stay in place, and improve your soil as they decompose. So spread a layer several inches thick. Your plants will love you for it. So will your teenager.

 

 

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