Temperatures are dropping and so are leaves.
Raking, blowing, bagging and hauling green waste to one of the city’s three convenience centers is one option for getting rid of all those leaves. Having the city pick them up during regular collection days is another, but the best option is to mulch them into the ground.
Mulching is easy and provides several benefits to lawns, gardens and soil. For those with kids, the first step is to rake all the leaves into a large pile and then let them jump into it for fun. As they launch themselves into the pile, the leaves get crushed and make for easier mulching, but it’s not a necessary step.
The easiest method is just to leave the leaves in place and run them over with a lawn mower. Be sure the leaves are dry first, as wet leaves will clog the mower and make it harder to clean and make the mulch thicker and more compact. Many mowers have a mulching setting and the option to take the collection bag off. For an even more environmentally friendly way to mulch, use an all-electric or push mower to eliminate CO2 emissions released by gas-powered machines.
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Once the bag is off and mulch setting on, start the mower and run the leaves over several times to make sure they are cut into the smallest pieces possible. The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Public Library website recommends mixing the crushed leaves with other brown materials for a better mulch.
The site says whole leaves are “a favored food of earthworms” but “tend to compact down to a soggy black layer with dry soil beneath,” so make sure those leaves are crushed into the smallest bits possible and spread evenly over the lawn. The library’s website says thicker layers of leaves can be used for weed suppression in the garden and around trees and other plants.
Benefits of mulching
Besides saving time and avoiding labor-intensive raking and bagging, mulching leaves into the soil provides many other benefits, including:
- Mulching is quieter and cleaner than using a leaf blower, plastic bags and the gas used to haul the leaves to the transfer station, especially when using an all-electric or push mower.
- Mulching improves the soil, reduces the need for fertilizer and avoids water pollution by reducing phosphorous and fertilizer leeching.
- It saves taxpayer money by reducing the number of trips solid waste makes for green waste curbside pickup.
- Mulching suppresses weeds when the leaves are spread on garden beds and improves soil quality when it decomposes and becomes compost.
- Increased biological activity helps provide nutrients to the soil and feeds earthworms and other beneficial insects.
- Helps lawns to absorb and retain moisture.
- Mulched leaves protect the roots of other plants and loosen the soil for better penetration of roots from lawn grass.
Green waste curbside pickup
Not everyone can mulch leaves into their lawn. Xeriscaped yards tend to use gravel and rocks that can’t be mowed over, and others don’t have mowers (or kids) to help crush those leaves into mulch and compost.
For those who can’t mulch their leaves, the city of Albuquerque provides curbside green waste pickup on regular trash days beginning Monday, Nov. 29, and ending Friday, Dec. 9, 2022. Before bagging those leaves, be sure to look for biodegradable or compostable lawn and leaf bags sold online and in many retail stores throughout the city. After placing the leaves in the biodegradable bags, be sure to put them on the curb by 7 a.m. on regular trash collection days.
Make sure to follow these tips when placing the leaves out for collection:
- Green waste must be 5 feet away from trash/recycling containers.
- Green waste must be placed in trash bags (biodegradable bags are fine).
- Trash bags must not weigh more than 40 pounds.
- If placing branches out for collection, make sure they are cut to 4-foot lengths and are bundled securely.
- Dirt, debris, gravel, construction material or tree stumps will not be picked up.
- Do not place green waste in your recycling cart.
For more information on green waste pickup, visit the city’s Department of Solid Waste website or call 505-761-8167.