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Leave Your Leaves

Every fall, leaves pile up in Princeton’s streets, creating safety hazards for bikers, blocking stormwater drains, and feeding unhealthy algae blooms in our waterways. Fortunately, there’s a solution.

Leave your leaves where they can do some good for your soil.

It’s easy to make the switch:

  • Pile them up. Rake leaves into a compost pile in a corner of your property. Turn it regularly and add some vegetable scraps, to get rich compost a few months later. Learn more about composting in your backyard.
  • Mulch leaves with a mower. They will disappear back into the lawn and provide needed nutrients. A mower with a mulching blade is optimal, but most power mowers (electric is best) should do an adequate job. 
  • Rake them aside. Rake leaves into a woodlot, if available, or into an obscured portion of your yard such as behind shrubs.
  • Spread leaves on the garden. Leave them to hold in moisture and slowly release nutrients. 
  • Use leaves to control weeds.  Rake them toward flower beds, the fence line, or other weedy areas.
  • Create a leaf corral. Build a corral or circle of wire fencing to keep them from blowing around as they decompose. 

Can’t keep leaves on your property? Instead, bag them and leave them out according to Princeton’s leaf schedule and rules. Place bags on the curb, not in the street, and only put loose leaves into bags (no sticks or brush).

Do you use a landscaper? Share these ideas, as well as this letter in English or Spanish, with your landscaper. The municipality also maintains a list of registered landscapers who use mulch mowers and other sustainable lawn practices.

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Think about it.

Leaves a plenty. One tree could easily have tens of thousands of leaves.

Reuse it or lose it. Left in piles by the curb, leaves release concentrated nutrients, which drains into our waterways and feeds unhealthy algae blooms. In contrast, when leaves are mulched and scattered around the yard, your lawn has the opportunity to absorb and use these nutrients.

Need mulch? Leaf mulch is an inexpensive mulch that you already have available. Skip the bags from the hardware store and use your leaves for moisture retention and weed prevention instead.