Don’t Blow It, Mulch It

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It’s Fall, Y’all! The leaves and the pine needles fall daily, and the leafblowers are in full blast. Using a gas-powered leaf blower not only causes air pollution but it causes noise pollution too. According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gas-powered leaf blowers and lawnmowers are among the sources of loud noise that causes hearing loss. Short-term and long-term exposure to noise pollution can also lead to problems like stroke, increased heart attacks, and other cardiovascular problems. Mulching your leaves reduces noise and air pollution and enhances your yard’s health by creating valuable compost, which enriches the topsoil. The North Carolina Climate Council recorded October as the 10th driest October since 1895.

Thirty counties in western North Carolina are already under burning bans. Rowan County will be too soon if we don’t get some rain. One more reason to mulch your leaves and not burn your leaves. You can use your mower or a specialized mulching mower to grind the leaves into smaller pieces. Be sure you mow the leaves several times, breaking them down into small pieces. This way, the leaves will not mat together. Still, they will settle into the turf and decompose by valuable microorganisms within the soil. A healthier lawn is more resilient to weeds, insects, and diseases and requires less water input. If you have many trees and too many leaves fall for you to mow, collect the mulched leaves every other mowing and put them over your cleaned-out vegetable beds. Apply a 3-to-6-inch layer of mulched leaves on the vegetable garden soil. This mulch will reduce the chance of topsoil erosion. It will add valuable organic material that microorganisms will continue to use throughout this fall, winter, and spring as shelter and food. Next spring, you can lightly turn this mulch into the soil or plant directly into it or beneath it, depending upon whether you are seeding or transplanting. Continue this practice yearly, and you will add valuable organic material that improves your soil’s structure and, thus, its ability to hold water and air.

You can also mulch landscape beds layering 3 to 6 inches over your plantings. Leaves create a natural mulch that helps to suppress weeds while fertilizing the soil as it breaks down. The leaves also serve as a habitat for wildlife, including lizards, birds, turtles, frogs, and insects that overwinter in the fallen leaves. These living creatures help keep pests down and increase pollination in your garden, so having a habitat for them in the fallen leaves can help keep them around when you need them the most.

You can also include leaves in a compost mix for your crops. Mulching is a simple and beneficial practice to create a healthy garden, and if you have trees, you have free mulch at your fingertips each fall. Mulching can protect the soil surface and help stop erosion from rainfall. Mulch also helps to moderate temperature extremes by keeping roots warmer during the winter and cooler in the summer and helps to keep moisture in the ground, which is especially helpful during times of drought.