Leaf me alone!

Good job Charlie! Remember parents, it’s never to early to put your kids to work.

Shhhh. Do you mind? I am trying very hard to ignore the fact that the Autumnal equinox already occurred on September 22, as well as the shivering murmurings of my coworkers who are about to turn the heat on in our office, and especially the blanket of leaves that has been steadily and stealthily accumulating in my backyard. Go away fall! I’m not ready for your seasonal variations yet!

Fall is actually my favorite time of the year. I love football, apple orchards and bonfires and find knit sweaters and casual boots to be far more comfortable and fashionable than flip flops and tank tops. Now that I have a baby in my life, however, it seems like autumn and I have a scheduling conflict. It is still dark in the morning when I get out of bed for work and by the time I’ve put Charlie to sleep after dinner, it is dark then too, eliminating any chances I may have had for sneaking in a quick bike ride. During the summer, I could use the last waning hours of light to work in the yard, but now that task is relegated to the weekend as well. My mind is still set on “weeding the garden mode” but already it is time to start raking leaves instead.

I know that I am not the only one with ambivalent feelings about fall. To be a Minnesotan is to walk around without a jacket until it’s 30° outside, just to avoid admitting that it is no longer summer. The seasonal transition is especially abrupt this year due to the dry conditions that are causing our trees to change colors and shed prematurely. You can keep wearing t-shirts, but it’s hard to deny that fall has arrived when you’re standing in a pile of maple leaves and holding on to a rake.

Whether or not you personally have come to accept autumn into your heart, the need for leaf raking remains, and not just to keep the neighbors from complaining. Managing and disposing of leaves properly can also help to make your lawn better next year, protect your street from flooding, and improve the health of nearby wetlands and waterways.  Here are a few guidelines to help you get started:

Rake leaves out of the street in the fall to keep lakes clean in the summer.

Got a small yard? Rake and bag leaves from your yard and sidewalk. Dispose of the leaves by composting them in your yard or bagging them for curbside pick-up.

Got a big yard? Rake areas directly under trees and then use your mower to mulch the rest of the leaves into the grass. Mowing is less time intensive than raking and the shredded leaves act as a natural fertilizer for your lawn. In fact, research from the University of Minnesota shows that if you mulch grass clippings and leaves into your lawn throughout the year, you will only need to fertilize once a year at most. Be sure to aim the blower away from the street and driveway or, in heavily blanketed areas, bag and compost the mulched leaves.

Got a street? Rake and bag the leaves and debris settled against the curb and in the street in front of your home, as well as any debris covering the nearest storm drain inlet.

Doing so will help to prevent flooding on the street during fall rainstorms and spring snow melt and will also keep decomposing leaves in storm drains from adding phosphorus, which contributes to algae blooms during the summer, to nearby wetlands and waterways.

If you have a big yard, mulch your leaves into the grass with a lawn mower to save time.

Want to stay out of trouble? Keep your leaves and yard waste out of the regular garbage, and never dump them in wetlands or buffer areas. It’s illegal!

If you get done with your own yard and you’re still looking for more action, consider joining the Girl Scouts of the River Valleys’ on October 13 as they celebrate their 100 Year Anniversary by cleaning grass and leaves out of streets near sensitive lakes and streams. Learn more at www.girlscoutsrv.org.