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Our home has 1-2 acres of community-owned forest adjacent to our property's backyard. We have wondered whether we should rake our leaves into the woods? Or is it best to bag and haul them away?

In what context should you remove leaves and what context should you keep them/move them to a nearby forest? Which is the greenest option? Which is the best for the health of our yard and the adjacent forest?

More specifics for us, we would be talking about 4 cubic yards of (uncompressed) leaves we would be raking into the woods. We live in the midatlantic US and get healthy amount of rain with a traditional continental climate. Our neighborhood gets a lot of moisture given we're downstream from some nearby higher ridges.

  • I put them in piles in the woods( National Forest) . And after a few years I have organic soil amendment . I try to make a pile a year . However , I only rake a small fraction of the leaves , most end up directly in shrubbery beds ( eg. azaleas and camellias ). – blacksmith37 Nov 11 at 23:03
  • It would be awesome if you could shred them in place by mowing over them or running them through a chipper/shredder. – That Idiot Nov 12 at 19:20
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The best and greenest option is to compost them yourself, on your property. Otherwise, if you have a wooded area where the leaves fall and nothing else is planted there, it's fine to just leave them where they are and let them gradually rot down back into the soil, as it does in forests. However, if your trees are underplanted or have lawn around them, you will need to collect them up - provided you have sufficient space, they can be composted quite simply by using black binliners. Make sure the leaves are wet or damp, cram as many as possible into each bag, tie the tops shut, poke a few holes in the bottom of the bags and stack them somewhere out of the way. Takes up to two years to produce rich, black leafmould which can then be added to your garden beds and borders, improving the condition and fertility of the soil; the process will be faster if you chop the leaves first (usually by running a mower over them), but they are harder to pick up when they've been chopped.

  • Thanks, in this case, trees from the woods are depositing leaves on my lawn. Sounds like in that case, I'm not going to create any issues for the forest if I rake them into the woods – Doug T. Nov 11 at 19:20
  • It's whether they'll stay there once you've raked them - windy dry weather might mean they just blow right back again... – Bamboo Nov 11 at 20:26

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