It’s autumn and the leaves are changing colors. Despite how beautiful the colors may be, it is only a matter of time before they begin their downward spiral, fluttering to the ground to become a nuisance in the yard.

Whether you use a leaf blower, a mower to mulch or children to rake piles leaves, the natural material can be used to prepare one’s yard for next spring’s planting.

The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute offers a few tips to get started. First, keep mowing. Tall grass can attract field mice while shorter grass is more resistant to diseases and traps fewer falling leaves, according to OPEI.

After the leaves begin to fall there is more to be done. Some lawn mowers have mulch attachments that can be used to mulch leaves. Mulching leaves will mix them with cut grass. Grass provides nitrogen, which results in quicker composting and returning nutrients to the soil during the cooler months, OPEI states.

Information from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources states leaves can be added to a stationary compost. This can be done by creating a storage container outside or a pile. Grass, if bagged, can be added to the compost and create the same effect as if they were mulched together in the yard.

OPEI also suggests using the fall to attend to trees and bushes. Large cut branches can be used in outdoor or indoor fires while trimmings from bushes and smaller ones from trees can be added to the compost. Ashes from fire can be put in the compost as well.

Other things that can be added to compost piles include food scraps, eggshells and coffee grounds.

Once your compost is complete, it should have an earthy smell and look like dark, crumbly top soil according to a tip sheet by the NYC Compost Project at earthmatter.org.

While compost piles are inclusive, it is wise to put newer additions to one side so that one may utilize the compost already created. According to the tip sheet, one should test compost by putting some in an air tight and sealed bag for three days. When it is open, it if it has a sour odor it is not ready.

“Using ‘unfinished’ or immature material that contains food scraps can attract pests and can cause harm to young plants,” the tip sheet states, “so make sure your compost has fully decomposed before adding it to your garden beds.”

Once it is ready, to use compost, sprinkle it on the top or mix it into a flower or garden bed. It also can be raked into tree beds or used in potted plants for indoor beauty. Earthmatter.org states compost can also be sprinkled throughout the yard to aid grass health.

Northwest Editor Sean Roberts can be reached at sean.roberts@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6606.

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