Billions of leaves blanket the fall landscape, and many homeowners bag them and place them curbside for trash pick-up.


Billions of leaves blanket the fall landscape, and many homeowners bag them and place them curbside for trash pick-up.



However, many of these leaves could become valuable mulch or compost. So why do they end up in bags to be discarded?



Itís probably because the homeowner is overwhelmed by the volume. For instance, one resident reported raking more than 100 large bags of leaves from his half-acre property. One large oak tree can contain more than 250,000 leaves!



But did you know that homeowners have tools for reducing 100 bags of leaves to just 10?



Shredding and composting can reduce leaf volume by 90 percent and creates a manageable quantity of valuable mulch ó and an excellent organic source for composting and converting into rich humus to improve the garden soil.



Shredded leaves stay seated better on the landscape than whole leaves. They also do a better job of holding moisture in the soil, and don't mat down like whole leaves.



But how do you shred leaves if you lack a costly leaf shredder?



All you need is a lawn mower, some extra time and concern for the environment. Just put the leaves on the lawn in rows around 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep.



Then, with the lawn mower at the highest wheel setting, run over the pile. If the mower has a bag attachment, collecting the shredded leaves is a neat and easy task.



Without a bag, the easiest way to collect them is to put a 9-by-12-foot drop cloth parallel to the row of leaves. Then, by running the mower in one direction so the leaves are discharged onto the cloth, cleanup is much easier.



To cut the volume of shredded leaves another 50 percent, throw them in the compost pile.



You'll be amazed by how much the leaves will shrink within a week. Shredded leaves also compost faster than whole leaves.



All you have to do to compost dry leaves is add water, a little garden soil and a cup of garden fertilizer.



Larry Williams is an agent at the Okaloosa County Extension office in Crestview.