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5 tips for cleaning up fall leaves

You want to rake the leaves on your lawn because otherwise they can suffocate your grass. And, if you get pummeled with snow over the winter, you'll have a soggy mess to clean up when the snow melts in the spring.

Rake it up</strong
Skip power washing or using a leaf blower, which can waste resources and create unnecessary noise pollution. Use a sturdy rake -- look for one made with FSC wood like the Enviro model from Garant -- and get friends or kids to help. Gather your leaves in biodegradable bags from brands like Bio Bags, or put them into paper bags that will decompose along with your leaves.

Compost it
If you have a huge yard or trees that drop a lot of leaves, you can pay to have your leaves taken to the landfill. It's likely that your local landfill will compost them for you, but you might have to pay as much as $100. For more moderately sized yards, consider putting them to work. If you don't have a compost bin, simply dig a hole (behind a shrub perhaps) and pile the leaves in. You can shred the leaves first if you'd like which will help them break down faster and use some basic composting principles, but you can also use it as a holding place through the frozen months. Leaves break down really quickly in the right conditions, which means you can use their nutrients, namely carbon, to improve your own soil--for free.

Insulate your plants
If you have a lawn covered in pine needles, use them to mulch your ornamental and raised gardening beds. They will give your plants some insulation through the winter. If you live in a somewhat warmer climate, shred your leaves with a mower and use them as ground cover to extend the season of your cooler weather crops like beets, carrots and kale.

Get Crafty
We have leaf projects galore on Readymade.com because you can always turn some of your leaves into decorations or gifts. Use them to stencil a table runner or cloth napkins. Coat them with metallic spray paint and turn them into a festive mobile or a holiday wreath. Or go all out and do a snowman version of a scarecrow and use the leaves as your filling for a re-purposed take on a lawn ornament.

Listen to the interview with Amy Palanjian from the Marketplace Morning Report.

About the author

Matt Berger is the former Digital Director at Marketplace.

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