Gardening is one of the great joys of life, but I don’t know a single gardener or homeowner who wants to make more work for themselves. Lawns and gardens provide ample seasonal chores without seeking additional tasks.

Well, here is one chore you can mark of your list this year; there is no need to rake your leaves. Here are some alternatives to raking this year.

•Mulch the leaves. While leaves left sitting on the lawn can damage turf next season, mulched leaves provide nutrients as they decompose, giving a boost over the next season. There are special mulching lawnmower blades, but a sharp blade will work as well. Simply run over the leaves — it may take more than one pass — until they are broken down into small bits.

•Stockpile leaves for composting. Backyard compost piles rely on the right mixture of “browns” and “greens.” Browns include leaves, sticks and other carbon sources, while “greens” include green plant material, kitchen scraps and nitrogen sources. My kitchen is constantly generating greens, mostly in the form of coffee grounds, with some veggie and fruit scraps incorporated as well, but fall leaves are my favorite “brown” in composting. They are fluffy, so they help incorporate oxygen in a pile and they are readily available. I fill up one compartment of my compost bin every fall, squish it in a little, and throughout the year as I add greens, I can reach over to my brown stockpile and sprinkle a layer of leaves over the top.

•Use as a groundcover/mulch. Many lawns and gardens have different zones; lawn, ornamental beds with shrubs or flowers, vegetable gardens, naturalized areas and some of these can benefit from fall leaves. For naturalized wooded areas, just let the leaves lie. There, leaves will create a mulch layer, which will conserve water in the soil, keep soil from washing away during rain events and, over time, add organic matter and nutrients back to the soil. Similarly, leaves can be used a mulch to cover vegetable garden beds that are out of use and can be incorporated to add organic matter before the next planting.

•Jump in leaf piles. Don’t forget this time-honored fall tradition for the kiddo crowd! Being in nature is important for children, and something as simple as jumping in leaves introduces kids to the outdoors. Before leaves are mulched or moved to their final home, pile ‘em up and jump!

Alicia Holloway is the Barrow County Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent. She can be reached by e-mail at, by phone at 770-307-3029, or by stopping by the Barrow County Extension Office at 90 Lanthier St., Winder. Follow Barrow County Extension on Facebook @BarrowCountyExtension.

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