HOUSTON – The weather is cooler in Houston, which means leaves are changing their color and falling off the trees.
Houstonians may be wondering -- what to do with the leaves on the ground?
The Texas A&M Forest Service says having leaves on the ground surprisingly has many benefits to our ecosystem. However, it can become a fire hazard if left in the wrong areas. They say the key to leaves around your home is finding the balance between removing and leaving them.
“Leaves should be removed from these first five feet, usually the gutters, the garden beds that touch the home and where leaves gather up against wooden fences and wooden decks,” said Karl Hines, Texas A&M Forest Service Coordinator. “If you choose to leave leaves in your yard, which we recommend, do so in a place that is not in one of these vulnerable locations.”
This is what the Texas A&M Forest Service says what you should do with leaves:
Leave them where they are
Matt Weaver, urban forester for Texas A&M Forest Service says if you look at the forest floor, it’s practically leaves. “Over time, those leaves break down and become organic material and eventually the soil itself,” he says.
Weaver added that in urban areas, there are a lot of soil issues like compaction and that organic material is actually important for tree health.
“Leaves also provide food and shelter to many insects and organisms that help keep our soil healthy,” said Hines. “By leaving leaves, you are leaving the insects that are overwintering in that thermal protection layer, you’re returning organic material to your soil.”
Create a compost pile
If the sight of leaves on your front lawn doesn’t suit you, the best thing you can do is to create a compost pile.
The Texas A&M Forest Service says composting leaves is a great way to cycle nutrients back into the soil as it is a good natural fertilizer for gardens and flowerbeds.
If you choose to burn your leaves...
Burning your leaves may be a much less desirable option, but if needed, always use safe debris-burning practices, such as keeping your piles small, and clearing flammable materials away from your piles, and following all local burning restrictions. Avoid burning on dry, windy days.