The leaves have fallen and this past weekend I saw most of my neighbours raking leaves and piling them into yard waste bags. This week’s garbage pickup will require a lot of heavy lifting by the waste management crew to get all those bags, that now so neatly line the curb, up and into their trucks. One of my neighbours simply blew leaves into his neighbours’ yard. Not such a good idea. Me, I took the easy way out and let my leaves stay put. Why? Well I don’t see anyone raking leaves in the forest and those areas look pretty good. And more importantly, many experts are now recommending that we leave our leaves.
Yes, those in the know tell us to leave our leaves where they fall. Actually, not quite where they fall, but rather they’d have us move the leaves into our garden beds and around our trees, shrubs and other plants. Why? There are benefits to your plants by following this practise which, if you think about it, is actually similar to the concept of composting and spreading compost into the gardens in the spring and fall. And these benefits support my action of raking (or lack thereof).
Benefit: Leaves add nutrients to the soil. Fallen leaves decompose into the soil releasing their nutrients, such as nitrogen, back into your gardens and lawns. Organic matter makes soil more fertile.
Benefit: Leaves help to heat the ground and retain moisture. Have you heard the phrase “the snow is blanketing the ground”? Fallen leaves act as a cozy blanket for your gardens, shrubs and trees. They keep the roots of your plants slightly warmer during the winter months. And they have a property similar to that of mulch i.e. retaining moisture for the plants.
Benefit: Animals and insects rely on leaf litter. Many insects, microbes and even larvae reside in the decomposing leaves. And some small animals and worms rely of nature’s litter for protection from the cold. And of course, birds will search the leaves for a meal of insects that may be hiding out of site.
Bottom line. Don’t throw out your leaves. Add them to garden beds and let nature do your fertilizing for you. And if you prefer, you can buy a compost bin next spring and start composting all season. The result: less yard and garden waste and more “nature made” soil nutrients for your trees, shrubs, and gardens. I’m looking forward to a healthier garden next year given all my “hard” work of not raking leaves this fall!