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out of control yard

My new wife and I recently purchased our first home, which is a ranch style house on 7 acres in a wooded area. Something we didnt consider when buying the house in the spring is the amount of leaves we would be burdened with in the fall. this year we tried our best to rake them all to the ditch and burn as many as we could, but we didnt even scratch the surface in the week of evenings and weekends we worked. Plus the ditch looks terrible now with all the burn piles in front of the house.

does anyone have any suggestions for easier removal of our leaves and hickory nuts?

A. Spruce
Re: out of control yard
A. Spruce

From the sounds of it, you don't have a municipal pick up of green waste. Around here, all green waste is placed at the curb either in a pile or green waste bin and is picked up by a separate truck on trash day. That waste is taken to a facility where it is ground and composted, then sold to local landscape contractors and suppliers who then retail it back to the consumer. The city used to sell it directly to the consumer, but I suspect that the overhead and hassle was too much to be cost effective. If you don't have a service like this in your area, it might be worth exploring with the community to get a program put into place.

As to your direct dilemma, yes, compost them. It works best to pick them up with a lawn mower or run them through a chipper, but they'll compost if just piled as well. What I would recommend is to find an out of sight place on the property to pile them and just leave them alone. Each subsequent season, add the new leaves to the end of the pile and forget about those too. At the end of the second year, the first pile of leaves should be fairly well decomposed and ready to be spread around the yard or property to amend the soil.

A bit of an issue can be the acidity level of the leaves. My property has a lot of oak leaves, however even after years of composting, the pH of my soil hasn't changed. You also probably noticed the time line for composting. Leaves are actually kind of tough to compost by themselves. I used to pile mine to compost over winter and be worked into the soil in the spring for the garden. The pile never did anything because the outer layer seals the moisture from reaching the center where it's most needed. Sure, you'll get plenty of mold, but not much for composting going on.

If you want to reduce the leaves faster, chopping them up goes a long way, short of that, you'll need to work other organics into the pile, such as manure and kitchen veggie waste, and turn it regularly, adding more moisture as necessary. With this method, the leaves will decompose within a few months and be ready to amend gardens, flower beds, yards, pretty much anything you want.

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