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City encourages residents to mulch leaves this fall in sustainability push

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Gathering leaves

Matthew Clark of Madison rakes his parents' front yard on Losey Boulevard in La Crosse in this 2018 Tribune file photo.

September is here, and soon leaves will begin to fall from trees onto yards — and the La Crosse Parks, Recreation & Forestry Department is encouraging residents to mulch leaves as a sustainability measure.

In its “Leaf It” campaign, the city is urging residents to take up mulching by shredding leaves up and leaving them scattered across the lawn, instead of raking and removing them. Mulching helps fertilize the lawn as the leaves decompose.

“When leaves are shredded, it makes it easier for worms to break them down and return nutrients to the soil. The small leaf pieces that fall into the bare spaces between the grass can help reduce common yard and garden weeds and provides excellent insulation for delicate plants and insects over the winter,” the city said in an announcement.

The mulch can also help the soil retain moisture, protect plant roots from extreme temperatures and prevent erosion.

Residents who are interested in mulching are invited to participate in an online survey, where they can register and receive a “Leaf It” yard sign. The survey can be found at surveymonkey.com/r/SustainableInitiative.

Leaves can be mulched by using a lawn mower. Set the mower’s height to about three inches and mow over dry leaves until they are about the size of a dime. They may need to be mowed over more than once.

Grass should still be visible through the mulch. If too thick a layer, the mulch can be spread out more evenly or moved and placed in flower or garden beds in order to thin it out.

As other sustainable measures, the city also suggests watering lawns at night or in the early morning so the water doesn’t evaporate; use rain barrels to water plants and gardens; and avoid synthetic fertilizers, choosing compost or other organic fertilizers as well.

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