Managing Fall Leaves: Collection, Decomposition and Disposal

Tips for Fall Lawn CareFall is coming, and that means lots and lots of leaves. If they’re left on the ground, they can damage your turf, choking grass and possibly acidifying the soil. These tips will help you get the most out of your Billy Goat truck loader and vacuum, save on disposal costs, and keep your lawn healthy.

Should I Mulch or Bag the Leaves from My Lawn?

In some cases, you may be able to let leaves decompose naturally, instead of removing them. While the breakdown is slow for whole leaves, it can be accelerated by using a mulching mower to chop them into small pieces.

Leaves are acidic. Sandy soils rapidly absorb leaf mulch, decreasing pH. Other soils take longer to absorb organic matter, so this mulch usually breaks down before absorption. As a result, it has little effect on soil acidity.  In fact, this mulch layer can act as a buffer, reducing acidification from other sources. This is true for all types of leaves, including oak and maple, which are the most acidic. Mulching leaves return their nutrients to the soil, reducing the need for fertilizer. It also boosts the activity of microorganisms, which helps them break down thatch.

You should always remove leaves from black walnut trees. They contain juglone, a natural herbicide that affects a wide range of plants. Mulching won’t break down the poison fast enough to prevent it from having an effect. However, the poison will break down if the leaves are composted. It takes about a month for the juglone to fully decompose, making the compost safe to use.

Your leaf mulch layer should be thin enough that you can see the grass poking through. During the peak of leaf-fall, you may need to mow the leaves two or three times per week. If the mulch completely covers the grass, you need to start bagging leaves.

Collecting Leaves

Billy Goat lawn vacuums and truck loaders have impellers with serrated edges that chop leaves as they pass through. Since lawn waste services usually charge by the bag, the resulting compaction greatly reduces disposal costs. The fine organic matter coming out of your Billy Goat is also great for composting. This lets you return nutrients to the soil and cut out disposal costs entirely. If you already mulched the leaves with your mower, your vacuum equipment will have no trouble picking them up. However, there’s no benefit to mulching leaves before collection.

You can use a truck loader or vacuum to pick up leaves at any time, but you’ll get the best results if the leaves are moist. When using a lawn vacuum, adjust the nozzle so that it’s kept just above the ground without scraping against it. Remember that your bag doesn’t just have a size limit, it also has a weight limit. If you’re picking up wet leaves, empty the bag when it’s half full to reduce the strain on the bag fabric. When picking up dry leaves, you will need to wash the bag more frequently. This keeps the pores in the fabric open, so air from the vacuum can pass through freely.

When using a hose on a vacuum or truck loader, keep the end of the nozzle about a half-inch above the debris you’re picking up. This lets you maximize vacuum pressure around the leaves as you work through tall piles.


Composting’s bad reputation can mostly be traced to household waste. Yard waste compost doesn’t have the same smell as home compost, and it’s much easier to manage. Recycling your leaf mulch saves money and produces humus, which can fertilize your soil. This organic material also makes great top dressing for trees and gardens.

Since winter is coming soon, you will need to make some adjustments to how you care for your pile. The microorganisms in compost generate their own heat. If you live in a place with severe winter temperatures, you can keep this heat in by surrounding the pile with hay bales or bags of grass and leaf clippings. Turning the pile releases heat, so you should do this less often. It will take longer for the mulch to decompose, but you should have humus ready to use by spring.

Be Ready for Fall Yard Cleanup

Do you need to get your Billy Goat equipment in order, so you’re ready for leaf collection? If you need parts or accessories for your Billy Goat, visit Billy Goat Parts. We’re an authorized dealer for Billy Goat and their partners, including Honda, Vanguard, and Briggs & Stratton. We make shopping easy with pages with commonly needed parts, like collection bags and air filters. Our site also has a search engine that can show you factory diagrams specific to your machine, so you know exactly what you’re ordering. Visit us at We ship across the U.S. and Canada.

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