Toronto Homeowner Tip 2: Getting Rid of Leaves

Autumn leaves by Vladimir Agafonkin
Autumn leaves by Vladimir Agafonkin

It’s the same every year: the summer ends, the children go back to school and again you realize that while the summer is a really cool part of the year with the sun and vacations and all the rest of it, deep down in your heart you know you are an autumn person. Whether you’re driving to work or just walking down the street minding your own business, you cannot take your eyes away from all that beauty covering everything in sight, silencing your steps. You wish you could be 10 years old again so that you could run up and down the street, kicking your way through the millions of leaves that make up Autumns Golden Gown.

In such a great mood you get home and look at your own lawn and the fairytale ends, because you realize that while someone else’s leaves are great fun (since they’re not your problem), your own leaves are not, because you have to get rid of them. But there’s no need to be depressed, because our 2nd Toronto Homeowner Tip deals with the most convenient ways of yard waste disposal.

In the past, people didn’t make much fuss about it: they either burned it or used it for mulching. Burning is out of question today, unless you want to apply for an open burning permit, and quiet honestly, this could take you until Spring time.

An obvious solution is to sweep all your leaves into your neighbours yard, but this may lead to you getting twice as many back next year.

Community services

To start with, you have to choose whether you will have the city services collect your organic waste, or if you will choose to make the most of it yourself. In the first case you will need to obtain an adequate number of kraft bags, because yard waste in Toronto is no longer accepted if packed in any kind of plastic bags. The next step is to gather all the leaves into these bags, either by using a good old fashioned rake or by the means of more modern options such as leaf blowers.

If you cannot do this by yourself, put your own or neighborhood kids to work – they’ll be surely delighted to make some pocket money. Either way, check the collection calendar to see when to have the bags ready for collection.

Mulching & composting

Autumn leaf by Ollie Crafoord
Autumn leaf by Ollie Crafoord

Another way to dispose of leaves is to run them over by mower allowing them to mulch and blend in with the turf. This is especially good method if you don’t have too much material that needs to be gotten rid of. In case the mixture covers your grass entirely, you are better off composting it and using it as a fertilizer after a few months.

Since decomposing is a natural process, it will happen even if you just dump all the leaves together and wait long enough. But if you want to use your compost as a fertilizer in a few months, a few general rules will help you to speed up the process.

For the best composting results, use a large compost bin. Place it on a level ground with a bit of sunlight and free at least 10 inches of space around it. The first layer should consist of mainly coarse material (small tree branches, dead plant stalks) that will allow good air-circulation and drainage. Every layer (up to 6 inches thick) of either yard waste (leaves, grass clippings, branches) or kitchen waste (newspaper, egg shells, coffee grounds, tea bags and any food scraps except for meet and dairy products) should be separated with a special layer of soil (about 1 inch thick). Water the layers as you go. If the weather is too dry or too rainy, you better cover the bin so that it maintains proper level of moisture.

Shredding the leaves before adding them to the pile and turning the mixture once or twice in a fortnight with a shovel so that there’s enough air will speed up the whole process. If you feel the mixture became too dry, water it a bit. If it’s too heavy, make deep holes in it so that the water can evaporate. Once the compost shrunken to 30-40% of its original size and you cannot recognize the original material, you can screen it through a wire mesh to separate larger parts which still need to decompose. Use the dark end-product as the most natural fertilizer for your garden.

This is just one of many composting methods so if you’d like to try your luck with other methods like a garbage-bag composting or worm composting, go ahead.

2 comments on “Toronto Homeowner Tip 2: Getting Rid of Leaves

  1. Hi Julie….thanks for your comments on my blog…I rake into the street, and the city will pick them up with a big vacuum….the trouble is that most times it ends up spring when they get around to it, because I am on an uncurbed street, and we are last always, and then we have frozen leaves…. oh for the fun days back, with leaf piles and kids heads peaking out…along with dogs…when my hubby was alive, we made it a fun leaf raking day with all the neighbors…everyone helped each other, and we ended with a pot of chili made on the fire pit….now that I could use the neighbors help, there all old too, so that’s out, and I do it by myself…. hope you sell lots of houses in Toronto….. judy

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