Autumn has come, and trees have begun to turn into lovely shades of reds, oranges and yellows. Soon, they will shed their fall foliage, dropping most of it on your yard’s lawn and driveway.
In the fall, racking or blowing leaves off of your lawn is crucial to help maintain the health of your yard. There are several ways to rid your lawn of leaf litter, and some useful and even fun ways to reuse them. They can be turned into crafts, outdoor games, and other fun activities.
Although ridding your yard of leaves by raking, blowing, or other methods may seem boring and time consuming, that doesn’t have to be the case.
With a little creativity, boring chores can be transformed into memory building, family fun opportunities.
Fun Crafts, Outdoor Games, and Activities with Leaves
Before you rake up the leaves and take them to your green waste bin or sidewalk curb, why not have a little fun?
15 Fall Leaf Crafts
There are a lot of cute crafts and activities that you can do with a few leaves, like:
- Wings- Cut the seams of a garbage bag so it becomes a rectangle. Cut the rectangle in half length wise. Fold over a side to create a pocket wide enough to fit a child’s arm into. Glue or tape fold, creating a sleeve. Do the same to the other half of the bag. Attach leaves with glue or tape, creating wings.
- Fall fashions- Using large paper grocery bags, cut out a hole on the bottom large enough to fit a child’s head, and then holes on each side of the bag for the arms. If it is easier, cut the bag straight down the back of the bag until it reaches the head hole, creating a paper bag ‘vest’. Using glue or tape, attach leaves in patterns. Then wear the creation and put on a fall fashion show.
- Fall birds- Glue leaves onto pinecones in the form of wings, tail, and head to create a beautiful fall autumn colored bird. Tie twine, yarn, or fishing line to the pine cone, and then tie the other end around a branch on a tree to have birds that won’t fly south for the winter.
- Leaf rubbings- Placing a leaf under a piece of paper and using the side of a crayon to rub over the leaf, creating a leaf design.
- Leaf suncatchers- Place fall leaves on the sticky side of a piece of contact paper, then place another piece of contact paper (sticky side) on top, and carefully flatten. Cut creation to desired shape and size. Hang suncatcher on a window that receives sunlight with tape.
- Leaf candle holders- Decoupage leaves on the outsides of mason jars, tie jar opening with an accent ribbon or twine, and place tea light inside.
- Leaf Mobiles- Mixing one part glycerin to two parts water, submerge leaves on a baking sheet for 2-6 days, then take out and allow to dry (homesciencetools.com). Punch a small hole on top, and tie it with a string, then to a branch. Make different stringed leaves of varying lengths. To hang the branch mobile, tie fishing line on each side of the branch, then hang from a hook.
- Make roses- Sisterknowsbest.com explains how to make beautiful flowers out of fall leaves.
- Leaf monsters- Using a paper grocery bag, cut out holes so that a person can see, then glue or paste leaves and other things found in the yard to create a scary or cute monster mask.
- Leaf luminaries- Getting a small paper lunch sack, cut out a large hole on one side. Then, cut out two equal sized pieces of contact paper slightly larger than the hole of the paper bag. On the sticky side of the contact paper, place leaf (leaves), cover with sticky side of other piece of contact paper. Tape contact paper with leaf on the inside of the brown paper bag, covering the cut out hole. Place battery powered tea light inside.
For larger crafts using leaf filled garbage bags, have fun making:
- Bagman- If you can’t wait for the first snows of winter to make a snowman, try making a bagman out of bags of leaves. Use sticks for arms and cut out funny face features made out of paper and glue it onto the bags.
- Leaf bag chairs- Make some comfy outdoor seating using filled bags of leaves. Decorate them with shapes cut out of decorative duct tape. Make sure not to put branches in bags meant to be sat on.
- Leaf bag pumpkins- Using decorative duct tape, cut out several long strips that can mimic the ribbing of a pumpkin, and tape the bag of leaves accordingly. Then use a empty toilet paper roll as a stem, covering it and attaching it with the decorative duct tape.
- Leaf bag cats- Taking two rubber bands, grab a corner of the bag and pull it slightly, tying it with a rubber band to create an ear. Do the same with the other side. Cut out fun facial features out of paper and attach with tape.
- Make a Monster Ball- Double or triple bag leaves to make a giant ball that can stand up to some rough play. Once again, decorative duct tape can give it some extra pizazz. Make sure no sticks end up in the garbage bag.
Fall Leaf Games
Leaves are great for crafts, but they can also be used for tons of great games:
- Buried treasure- Make several leaf piles and have someone place a small treasure at the bottom of one of the piles. Then, have kids try to find the treasure.
- Soccer- Using a giant bag of leaves, try to kick it or push it towards a your goal while the other team tries to push it towards their goal.
- Find the leaf- Cut out one leaf out of an autumn colored piece of construction paper. Place it in the yard with the fall leaves and see how long it takes someone to find it.
- Decorating the fence- Using tape, make images of animals, scenery, or people on fences or side walks that tell a story.
- Leaf races- Have contestants line up and place a leaf on their head and see who can make it to the finish line first without the leaf falling off of their head.
Making Raking Fun
Sometimes raking leaves can seem pretty monotonous.
To make the task more fun, try the following activities:
- Make a leaf maze
- See who can make the biggest pile of leaves
- Have races to see who can clear out a section the fastest
- Create a large yard picture or message by clearing out areas of leaves to make a saying or image
- Make a leaf city with piles of leaves being designated buildings, then go and drive bikes or toy cars through the ‘streets’ of the city.
Why You Need to Rake or Blow Leaves Off of Your Lawn
Playing in and with autumn leaves can be fun, but why is it important to rid your lawn of leaves anyway?
There is a temptation to leave leaves on the ground during winter, thinking that the leaves will break down and add nutrients to the soil.
However, that isn’t necessarily the case.
Leaves can be used as a fantastic compost for lawns, but they have to be broken down by the composting process first.
5 Easy Steps to Winterize Your Lawn gives great advice on how to prepare your lawn for the upcoming winter, which includes leaf debris removal.
It also discusses why leaf litter needs to be removed.
The Need for Sunlight
Grass needs sunlight, especially in the autumn.
If grass is buried under leaves, the sunlight cannot reach it.
If grass doesn’t get enough sun, it will not grow as well in the spring, leaving your lawn with lots of browning and ugly dead spots.
Snow Mold Prevention
Leaves that are left to decay under snow can expose your lawn to different types of snow mold.
The Center for Agriculture, Food and The Environment, from The University of Massachusetts Amherst lists several different types of snow mold, including:
- Microdochium Patch (Pink Snow Mold)
- Typhula Blight
- Coprinus Snow Mold
- Snow Scald
If a thick blanket of leaves is left on the ground, it will likely attract small animals that are looking for shelter from the cold.
These animals will most likely be rodents, especially mice, rats, and voles.
While living under the leaf litter during the winter, they will enjoy feasting upon your grass roots, causing significant unseen damage to your lawn until spring.
They may even venture into sheds or into houses.
If left unchecked they will chew through wiring on outside yard equipment, make holes in tarps, and create holes and tunnels under structures in the yard.
The traditional way to rid a yard of leaves is to use a rake.
The benefits of raking include:
- Cheap, easy to maintain equipment
- Good exercise
- Efficient way to collect leaves for disposal or composting
Some disadvantages to raking leaves include:
- Very time consuming
- Physically straining
When raking your lawn, try the following techniques:
- Wait until the leaves are dried
- Wear long sleeves and gloves
- Place a tarp down and rake leaves into them, then tie up tarp
- Rake in the same direction of the wind instead of fighting against it
For some, the leaf remover of choice is the leaf blower.
Some advantages to leaf blowers include:
- Faster leaf removal
- Less stress on the body
- Can be used for other functions, like dust removal or even as a giant bubble blower
Some disadvantages of using a leaf blower include:
- Somewhat expensive to buy
- Mechanical maintenance
- Loud Noise
- Potential altercation with neighbors if leaves are blown in their yard
- Still need a rake to place leaves in bags or disposal bins
When using a leaf blower, make sure to:
- Wait until leaves are thoroughly dried so they will blow away easier.
- Wear protective clothing, eyewear, gloves, and a noise canceling device for your ears.
- Determine a location where to blow the leaves to for easy gathering and bagging.
- Make sure blower is properly maintained and ready before and after use.
Do not blow leaves into neighbors yards.
Another technique used by many is to simply use a lawnmower to mow over leaves, effectively chopping them into small pieces that will easily break down and compost the lawn.
Benefits of moving over leaves:
- Time efficient
- Using equipment you have on hand
- Provides compost for lawn
Some noted disadvantages to this method include:
- Possibility of clogging the mower
- Having the appearance of a messy yard
- Not having the compost for the spring when grass begins to regrow
One of the main uses for fall leaves is compost.
Creating rich organic matter for spring gardens and lawns is a great way to recycle leaf litter.
To create compost, you can invest in a composter, or just find a corner in your yard where you can keep the leaves.
When making compost, all you need to do are 3 basic steps:
- Cut or shred leaves into small pieces. Large leaves take a long time to break down.
- Apply a source of nitrogen to your leaf confetti. This can include manure, vegetable scrapes, coffee grounds and filters, egg shells, old bread, etc.
- Turn compost regularly to allow oxygen to infiltrate the mixture, once every 2-4 weeks should do.
In the spring, use your compost on your lawn, flower, and garden beds for beautiful and healthy plants.
Is It Okay to Burn Leaves
Some individuals choose to burn their fall leaves.
This is especially common in rural areas with few, if any, burn restrictions.
However, there are different problems associated with burning leaves.
Rosie Lerner, from Purdue University points out several issues with burning leaves:
- Burning leaves leads to air pollution
- There is risk of starting brush fires
- Toxins and chemicals are released in the smoke from the leaves and can accumulate in the lungs, staying there for years
- Increases risk of respiratory infection
- Moist leaves that are burned can release chemicals called hydrocarbons, that are known to be carcinogenic
If you still plan to burn leaves, make sure you adhere to the following safety measures:
- Obtain necessary burn permits
- Choose a place to burn away from structures or dry, grassy areas
- Clear the space around burn pile of any debris or flammable objects and substances
- Keep a bucket of water or hose near by that is ready to use
- Wear long sleeves, pants, gloves, closed toed shoes, face mask, and eye protection
- Make sure there is no wind to blow embers into neighboring areas
- Have a long stick to disperse embers to get a complete burn
- Do not leave burn pile until everything is done burning and the pile is cool
- Dump or hose down pile when done burning
- Do not leave burn pile until it is cool enough to touch
Disposing of Leaves
When the games are all over and done, and your compost bin is brimming over with leaf litter, what do you do with the rest?
If you live in a city that collects green waste, place leaves and other recommended yard litter in the bins.
Some areas offer curbside collection for residents.
If you live in an area with curbside collection, place bags of garden waste outside where it is easy for collection vehicles can easily see and reach them.
Make sure you place things outside close to time of pickup.
If bags of leaves are left on the curb too long, animals can tear open bags and mess up all of your hard work.
Check to see if your area has a residential compost site or green recycling center where you can take your waste, or that will collect it for you.
Information can usually be found on your town or city’s official website.
Enjoy the Fall
It is important to have fun, especially when autumn comes with its beautiful colors and cool breezes.
Make yardwork a fun family activity, and not something to be dreaded.
Not only will your yard look beautiful and ready for the upcoming winter, you can make memories that will last all year long.