NEIGHBORHOOD NOTES | Rake ‘Em Up: Fall Leaf Disposal Tips for St. Anthony Park

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The autumn leaves are a blessing and a curse. Their blaze of colors is a feast for the eye, the way they scatter in the wind and shuffle underfoot are familiar rites during this passage of the seasons. Then– there’s the raking.

Our beautiful city trees produce a lot of leaves. I grew up in Minneapolis on an avenue lined with elm trees. When I was young, the scent of leaves burning signaled autumn. We’d rake up leaves into great golden piles, jump and play in them and eventually haul them to the alley where my dad would fill a special metal can, punctured for air flow. On chilly autumn evenings, we kids would gather around and watch the leaves crackle and burn. That practice ended when it was determined that in our densely populated cities, everyone burning leaves was creating a lot of air pollution.

Currently, State law bans leaves from landfills and burning facilities. There are several options for disposing of leaves from our city yards. According to University of Minnesota Extension, residents can bag their leaves for disposal elsewhere or use them as mulch or compost in the yard.

Adding leaves to the compost pile can be an art. Shredding them lessens the bulk and hastens their decomposition. Some neighbors own shredders or hire lawn maintenance companies to do the job. Leaves in the compost pile benefit from mixing with grass clippings for extra nitrogen. Using the lawn mower to shred a light covering of leaves is a fine way to add nutrients to the lawn.

Leaves make good mulch in plant and flowerbeds and around trees and shrubs. Oak leaves, which decompose more slowly than others, are especially suitable. Mulching protects soil from erosion and enriches it as it as leaves break down.

Many of us combine composting and mulching with some bagging and removal of leaves. Ramsey County provides Yard Waste Collection Sites. The Midway site is convenient for residents of St. Anthony Park. It’s closed Tuesdays and Thursdays, but open other days, including Saturdays and Sundays. It’s free but you must show proof of residency in Ramsey County, so bring a driver’s license.

Garbage haulers will also take leaves. Fees vary between trash haulers and some want you to call ahead to arrange collection of extra yard waste. Our hauler, Highland Sanitation tells me that it doesn’t charge for the first bag but does charge $2.50 per bag after that.

However you bag it, the law requires that leaf bags be re-usable or compostable. At the Ramsey County’s yard waste drop-off site, you must dump out the clippings and take your bag home with you.  At Noll Hardware, 789 Raymond Avenue, they sell both paper ($5.99 for ten) and “compostable, biodegradable” plastic bags ($9.29 for 12).

According to District 12 community council executive director Amy Sparks, street sweeping will begin at the end of this month. She stressed the importance of reminding people that it is against the law to sweep leaves into the street. Leaves get washed down the gutters and overload the watershed with phosphorous-charged yard waste.

I tried out the city’s new interactive mapping feature to see when my street will be swept. It looks like Monday, the 31st, Halloween. That means that on that day there will be a no parking ban along my busy street (where many U of M students park). It looks like a good weekend to rake.

Neighborhood Notes are updates about what’s happening in Twin Cities neighborhoods, submitted by our volunteer neighborhood correspondents (and neighborhood residents), and not edited by the TC Daily Planet. Click to learn more about becoming a neighborhood correspondent.