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Dreading Bagging up Those Leaves? Don't, Say Experts

Michele Skalicky

Your weekend plans might include dealing with the leaves that have fallen on your yard.  And with the recent rain and strong winds, there likely are many.

And if you’ve been dealing with leaves by raking them up, bagging them and hauling them off, you might consider another easier option.  The city of Springfield’s environmental services coordinator, Barbara Lucks, wants people to know that it’s ok to leave them on your lawn.

"Nowadays, there are a lot of mulching mowers available. And if you don't have huge quantities of leaves - it may take a couple passes - but you can mulch leaves and even grass clippings to the size that it won't create thatch and it will actually keep those nutrients that are in your leaves right there on your lawn," Lucks says.

Patrick Byers, regional horticulture specialist with University Extension, says lawns will survive even with several layers of leaves on top.  But a pile of leaves isn’t a good idea—you need to scatter leaves across a yard.

"Those leaves are an excellent source of organic matter and there are also nutrients that are locked up in those leaves that are returned to the soil for use by the long grasses," he says.

Not only are you helping to put nutrients back on your lawn, according to Lucks, you’re avoiding the hassle of bagging leaves and eliminating transportation costs when you leave them on your lawn.

One thing you can’t do when dealing with leaves is to put them in the trash.  The Missouri Department of Natural Resources banned yardwaste from Missouri landfills in 1992.  And for good reason, says Lucks.

"When the ban first when into place, 20 percent of what was filling up Missouri landfills was yard waste, which is absurd because it has certainly much better use than sitting in a landfill. And that's quite expensive space also."

You also shouldn’t blow leaves into the street or into ditches and storm drains, she says.  That’s banned by city ordinance.

And the nutrients from the leaves eventually end up in area waterways where they contribute to algae growth.

If you have too many leaves to leave on your lawn, you can take them to the city of Springfield’s  recycling centers.  Fewer than ten bags each day can be taken to the Lone Pine and Franklin Avenue Recycling Centers.  More than that need to go to the Yardwaste Recycling Center.

Suggested donations for dropping off yardwaste are used to operate the centers.

Leaves left there are composted and turned into a soil amendment.

The compost is available in bulk at the Yardwaste Recycling Center or in bags at all of the sites.  But Lucks recommends checking to make sure it’s available before you go since it’s a popular item.

Another way to dispose of leaves is to compost them in a small compost bin on your property.  The composted materials can be used to enhance the soil in flower and vegetable gardens, according to Lucks.

For more information about the city’s recycling centers or about disposing of leaves, Springfield’s recycling hotline is 864-1904.

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.