Fall Clean-Up: What to Do When Autumn Leaves Start to Fall

Tips on easy clean-up and ways to recycle.
Signs of Autumn

Signs of Autumn

Fall is coming

Photo by: Image courtesy of Jeff Stafford

Image courtesy of Jeff Stafford

Fall is coming

You know autumn is here when the evenings grow cooler and the leaves began to change from green to a dazzling array of colors. Then they begin to fall. That's when you reach for the rake. But there are other alternatives if you don't relish that task. Consider these other options instead along with some suggestions on ways to recycle leaves from ISA certified arborist Max Burton of Monster Tree Service.


Mow Them

Use a lawn mower with a bag attachment to handle leaf debris on your yard. Disposal becomes a simple matter once the ground-up leaves are collected in the bag.

Vacuum Them

With a leaf vacuum, you can suck up all of the fallen leaves, twigs, acorns, pine cones and other debris into a bag and then grind them up for mulch or compost.

Blow Them

A leaf blower is recommended for managing and redistributing fallen leaves in large yards with lots of trees but raking is more practical and less time consuming if you have a small lawn or garden area.

Put Down Tarps

One way to collect fallen leaves is to put down large tarps under the trees and drag them to a disposal area when the tarp is full. You can also use the tarp as a leaf bag substitute, easily dragging it around the yard as you fill it with leaves to be emptied in an area for compost preparation.

If you really have an aversion to raking or hiring a lawn service for leaf clean-up, you can simply wait until the end of the season when most of the leaves have fallen and then deal with the situation. The down side, of course, is that this can kill your grass or lawn and irk the neighbors because of the unsightly leaf litter. However, if you only rake once and then overseed the lawn, even in the winter, that should replenish any grass that died back unless the leaf debris is too thick.

Some final tips: Remember to remove leaves from your gutters on a regular basis to prevent clogging during heavy rains or snow. You should also try to remove fallen leaves during clear weather and before a rainfall when they become much heavier to manage.



Leaves make great mulch. It's free and as good—if not better—than anything you can buy, especially if you are mulching next to anything white and want to keep it that way. "One of the biggest problems with wood mulch or wood chips," says arborist Max Burton, "is artillery fungus that fire their black spores onto buildings." This can cause damage to vinyl and wood siding as well as harm and infect nearby plants. Avoid this problem by using leaf mulch instead.


Adding leaves along with grass, sticks, pine straw and a little soil to your compost pile will result in a high quality compost rich in nitrogen that is ideal for use in your vegetable garden or for shrub and tree plantings.

Community Recycling

If you are not a gardener or do much yard work, you should consider offering your bagged leaves to neighbors who use mulch and compost. You can also contact your local county or township to see if they will remove and compost your leaves at a municipal facility for redistribution in the community.

Educational Uses

"Fall is always an opportunity for education for kids," Burton notes. "You can create leaf collections and press them into collages. They're extremely easy to preserve. Press them in newspapers so that the moisture is absorbed and they dry flat." This is an ideal way to label and identify the leaves of specific trees. An even simpler alternative is to create a digital photo collection of colorful fall leaves.

Art Projects

Leaves that have fallen at the peak of their color can be preserved in a variety of presentations. You can make a leaf decoupage or a colorful seasonal wreath or a fall foliage centerpiece for decoration. You can also use leaves as stuffing for a scarecrow or Halloween yard figure.

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