The fall season is a time of year when you may find yourself with more leaves than you know what to do with. It is true that some Manitoba municipalities have curbside leaf and yard waste collection programs, Green Action Centre recommends putting leaves to good use by composting them at home or in your neighbourhood. Here are some suggestions for coping with a blizzard of leaves.
If you already compost, you will know how important it is to gather leaves in the fall. If you have been thinking about starting composting, now is a perfect time. Saving your leaves is a great way to begin. Leaves are what we call “browns” and they are not only an essential part of making compost, but you need them to cover up all the vegetable scraps and other “green” materials that you are adding to your compost pile.
Not sure how to get started or what browns and greens are? Check out our Basics and Getting Started page. You may want to consider signing up for a free workshop where we’ll teach you everything you need to know to compost effectively.
Here are some tips for storing and using your browns:
- You don’t want to throw all your leaves in your compost bin in the fall or you’ll fill up your bin and have no place to put materials through the winter (or maybe even in the spring).
- You can compost all winter (yes, even in Manitoba) and you don’t need to cover the greens because they will freeze anyway. You will want to save lots of browns for spring and summer when you really do need them.
- You can store your leaves in bags or just heap them up in a pile. If you have more than one compost bin, harvest your finished compost in the fall and then use the empty bin to store your leaves.
- Don’t underestimate the amount of leaves that you will need. It’s more than you think. Remember that you need 2 to 3 times the volume of browns for covering those greens.
Reduce Their volume
If you want to reduce the volume of leaves so as to use fewer bags or reduce the amount of storage space you need for composting, consider grinding them up.
You don’t need a special piece of equipment or expensive grinder — you can simply use your lawnmower. Most lawnmovers these days are “multimode” and have a mulching function that you can use to chop up the leaves and reduce the volume significantly. Estimates of how much volume is reduced vary but our experience would estimate 5 to 10 times less volume depending on how fine you chop them.
An easy way to do this is to rake the leaves into a windrow, grind them up, and then rake them up. On the left is a picture before you grind the leaves up and on the right afterwards.
As a final clean up, you can set the height of your mower a little lower and bag up the smaller pieces that you could not rake. With the mix of the grass that you are cutting and small bits of leaves that you are gathering, you will have a good mix of greens and browns and can just add this directly to your compost pile.
You can also use leaves as an excellent mulch around shrubs and trees. It’s a great way to add nutrients to the soil while helping to retain moisture and suppress weed growth. Leaves are readily available and free, and they break down on their own — all of which makes using leaves for mulch a low-effort solution.
Give them away!
Check around your community. There are many community organizations and gardens throughout the city that are composting and would be happy to take your leaves. You may even have a neighbor who is an avid gardener and needs extra leaves for their compost.
Here are some Winnipeg organizations that you can contact for information:
- The Spence Neighbourhood Association: call (204) 783-2834.
- West Broadway Community Organisation: call (204) 774-7201
- Daniel McIntyre/St Matthews Community Association: call (204) 774-7005
- St. Matthew’s-Maryland Community Ministry: call (204) 774-3957
yard waste pickup and depots
If you still have too many leaves, take advantage of your municipality’s curbside yard waste collection program or yard waste drop-off depots.
Sweeping them is not the solution
Please, please don’t sweep or blow leaves onto the street. That’s a terrible waste. It makes a mucky mess when they get wet. And it also clogs up the sewer system that drains surface water, which can end up flooding your street (and basement). Your neighbours will not appreciate that. Leaves are a great resource. Take advantage of them and please do your part to help make your community clean and green.
P.S. If you live in Winnipeg and need another reason, please be aware that anyone caught sweeping leaves onto the street can face a fine of up to $150.