LEAF IT BE

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As the weather cools, we see the trees turn beautiful shades of orange, red and yellow signaling autumn. These colorful falling leaves also remind us of our chore of cleaning their litter off our sidewalks, lawn and properties. As I walk my dogs through the neighborhood and parks, scuffling through and crunching the carpet of leaves, I notice many homes with piles of leaves on the street waiting for the city to haul them away. My first thought is, I should come back and steal these however unpractical that is, then I realize they must not know what a gold mine they are tossing out as a nuisance.

As an avid gardener, I’ve experimented with many soil amendments throughout the years from compost, to worm casings, to stinky fish emulsions (yuck), synthetic fertilizers, wood chips…and absolutely nothing works as well to make my plants thrive and my clay soil soften better than leaf mold. What is leaf mold? Well, when you suck the leaves through your blower/vac or even rake them, put them in a black yard waste bag (must be black to stay warm and dark) loosely tied and set them aside somewhere outside. By spring the bag will be full of partially decomposed leaves covered in white mold. Spread this around your trees and plants or under your mulch as you would compost and voila! This same process also happens when you leave the leaves under the trees or shrubs they came from or if you spread them as mulch now, but the process just takes a little longer. You should always leave a few inches of leaves under the trees and plants where they came from as that is what feeds them, keeps them healthy, drought tolerant, prevents disease (never pile mulch around the trunk) and keeps them out of the landfill. Blowing all the leaves out from under your tree leaving hardened clay soil robs it of nutrients.

Leaves are great for healthy lawns too. If you have a light sprinkling of leaves on your lawn, don’t bother raking or blowing them off. Take the bag off your mower, mow right over them and leave them in place. Don’t worry about the messy look of leaf pieces, as they won’t last long. Within a couple of days and watering the soil organisms will have worked them in to your soil (they’re fast!) and your lawn will have had an organic nutrient rich treat. So next time your mow and blow guys skin your property and toss out natures free compost, tell them to black bag it for you instead. Your gardens will thank you!

4 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks for the tip. I will do that!

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  2. Posted by sqrrlady on November 22, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    I am so glad you wrote about the leaves. So many people just must tidy up places where nature tends to leave a mess (at least in our eyes)

    All these “messes” are natural and very valuable, from beautiful fallen leaves which I consider as “eye candy” to the dead or fallen trees, stumps and logs which become homes to our many critters.

    Over time they just naturally decay feeding the worms, beetles that are the basis for new soil which will grow new Oaks, and other trees. Our yards would much more healthy if as suggested we bagged our leaves and reuse as nature does next year.

    In the Parks just leave it alone as nature intended, it is already doing what it needs to do. All the dead trees, fallen trees, branches are already occupied by cavity nesting birds, the fallen ones provide cover to other birds and host a multitude of little insects all making good soil.

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    • Posted by mizzhibbs on November 22, 2016 at 3:25 pm

      Very true! Our need to clean messes, in many ways creates more messes. lol I do believe a lot of it is just educating people, as they likely were chored with raking leaves as kids and never thought twice about why nature put them there in the first place : ) Thanks for your support and reply!

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  3. Posted by Patrick P. Pizzo on November 23, 2016 at 8:57 am

    Nice Piece! I do rake the leaves from my back lawn. They are from a Japanese Maple and the colors and delicacy of the leaves makes parting with them difficult. I have a planter box in the side yard and I spread these leaves there. They are very slow to decay, however. I will try the garbage bag acceleration method. One of my non-favorite leaves are the Plain Sycamore leaves. They gather under native plants along a project near our development. In the Winter and early Spring, they hold moisture next to the root-crown of the plants causing problems. I rake them out from the base of the plant. If the plant is a toyon, I leave the toyon leaves to do their magic. I have a beech tree in the yard. This tree holds on to its leaves until spring, much the same as the red-oak we have in TJM and J. Fontana (in the open area near the TJM Tot lot and on the east-side of McAbee). There is probably a good reason for this, especially in snow country; but it looks like the trees are dead! One day, each spring, some chemical reaction occurs where the leaves hold to the stem and they all drop. Then, new green shoots!

    Wonderful contribution as one can see from the comments it has spawn. pppizzo

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