797006 KS-ARLINGTON

Instead of raking up your leaves, run over the grass with your mower and return valuable nutrients to the soil.

Scott Evans calls it a win-win situation.

Instead of spending hours raking and bagging your leaves and then hauling them to the curb, mow and leave the leaf debris on your turfgrass.

“If you just mow it up, you don’t see those leaves, and it helps speed up the decay process,’’ said Evans, the horticulture program coordinator with Nebraska Extension in Douglas-Sarpy Counties. “We’re removing the unsightliness of the leaves, but we’re also making it easier for those leaves to break down.’’

The leaf mixture left on your lawn will provide the grass with basic nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Plus some calcium and micronutrients. Evans calls it nutrient cycling.

“It’s one of the best ways to reduce yard waste and returns all the nutrients that have fallen from the tree,’’ he said.

Evans also suggested other ways to use the leaves:

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Composting

Make your own Oma-Gro in your backyard. Mix an equal amount of browns (leaves) and greens (kitchen scraps) and stir it up in your compost bin. “You want to mix it, not layer it on top,’’ he said.

Lettuce, avocados, bananas, orange peels and apple cores work well. Don’t use protein, fats or oils in a compost pile because that could attract rodents.

Protect plants

Run the leaves through the mower to mulch them, then place them around plants as you would with wood-chipped mulch. “If you just rake the leaves around the plant, they will stack up like paper,’’ Evans said. “This could inhibit moisture from draining away from the plant and could cause rot.’’

Make leaf mold

Put your leaves in a clear plastic bag and leave them outside over the winter. “Let Mother Nature compost those leaves,’’ Evans said. The leaves will break down enough that they can be used for mulch or compost next spring.

Evans said it’s also a good idea to check the moisture around your trees and shrubs this weekend and give them a good drink of water.

“Well-hydrated soils are better able to buffer temperature swings, which makes it healthier for the plant,’’ he said.

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Marjie is a writer for The World-Herald’s special sections and specialty publications, including Inspired Living Omaha, Wedding Essentials and Momaha Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @mduceyOWH. Phone: 402-444-1034.

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