Nov 13, 2023 - News

When to rake in Austin

Illustration of a fall leaf holding a pumpkin spice latte.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Fall is here, and leaf season is upon us.

What's happening: If you aren't already dealing with leaves in your yard, you will be soon.

Between the lines: This summer's extreme drought and high temperatures put stress on Central Texas trees, causing many to turn brown and drop their leaves early — a mechanism to cut off nutrients and conserve water.

Why it matters: It's time to decide whether you'll break out the rake or leave 'em be.

What they're saying: Fallen leaves are packed with nutrients and resources for nearly everything in your yard, according to Leslie Uppinghouse, horticulturist at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

  • "If you are trying to improve the soil for a garden bed then by all means leave it nice and thick and let winter break it down," Uppinghouse tells Axios. "This gives your perennial plants some nice cold temperature protection."

Details: If you don't want to see so many leaves on your lawn, Uppinghouse suggests mowing right over them with the mower bag off. That chops the leaves and provides a fine compost layer to prevent soil compaction.

  • For spots in your yard thick with leaves, Uppinghouse recommends starting a compost pile for some nutritious dirt next spring.

Yes, but: If you choose to pick them up, the city composts small branches and leaves that are placed in your green cart.

The bottom line: Leaving the leaves can also save you money, Uppinghouse adds.

  • "We spend loads of money hiring companies and people to blow and rake our leaves and haul them away, then every spring we spend equal amounts of money hiring folks back to spread compost," she says. "It's a silly and expensive way to achieve the benefits of what nature has always provided."
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