Hire a pro for your lawn leaf removal
All over central Indiana, leaves have been falling from trees and shrubs since midsummer because of the drought — making leaf removal long overdue. The grass, too, has suffered from the lack of rain and the city’s ban on watering.
That makes one wonder how worried we need to be about leaving leaves on the lawn, which probably is already in a weakened state if not dead, says Rosie Lerner, consumer horticulturist at Purdue University. Unfortunately, good landscape practices must continue, she says, and that means the leaves need to be removed, which should be done anyway in order to lay down sod or sow grass seed.
Smaller leaves, such as honeylocust, dogwood, ginkgo and birch, can be left on the lawn. “Larger leaves, such as maples, oaks and sycamores, form a solid mat when they fall to the ground. When they get wet, they pack down even more and can smother grass and ornamental plants,” Lerner says.
When larger leaves become an issue, Lerner shreds them with a mulching mower or recommends having a lawn care company do it. “The mulched leaves are a good recycling of organic matter,” she says. “But I know that some people want to have a very manicured lawn. If that’s the case, the leaves can be chopped and vacuumed up by landscape crews and left for homeowners to use as a mulch in their garden. The last thing people should do is send them to a landfill, unless there is an accompanying recycling facility,” she says.
Mark Reed, owner of highly rated Classic Touch Lawn Maintenance in Indianapolis, agrees. He blows the leaves out of beds and either mows or vacuums them up. Then he takes the debris to GreenCycle, which has four central Indiana locations. The company specializes in recycling and composting yard waste. “GreenCycle is trying to do the right thing and should be everyone’s friend when it comes to recycling yard waste,” Reed says.
Highly rated GreenCycle of Indiana, which sells the composted yard waste as soil amendment, receives about 100 truckloads of yard waste a day at its main facility on Indianapolis’ southside, says vice president John Repenning. “About 200,000 cubic yards of yard waste are recycled annually,” he says.
Angie’s List member Norma Bridges of Indianapolis, 85, has been relying on Reed’s company to prepare her yard for winter since 1997. “I just tell them to pretend my yard is theirs and they should do whatever they need to,” she says, noting they return in winter to remove snow.
Reed recommends homeowners put raked leaves in paper bags because they decompose much faster than plastic bags. Each fall, the Indianapolis Department of Public Works collects about 8,000 tons of leaves from Marion County curbsides. The leaves are taken to the Southside Landfill on South Kentucky Avenue, where they’re composted in windrows all winter. In spring, the resulting compost is available for free.
Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp, the Hoosier Gardener, lives in Indianapolis. A freelance writer, her work appears in many publications. Sharp, a director of the Garden Writers Association, also speaks about gardening throughout the Midwest.