Let Your Leaves Be

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We’re in the time of the year when the morning air is crisp and chilly, the sun shines on us less every day, and the leaves on the trees are falling off for the winter. Trees are moving the energy in their leaves into their roots for storage during the coldest months of the year, and they’ll keep it there until warmer days start back up in the spring. What this means for us all, is a lot of brown leaves all over the place. So often I see people bagging them up and having them carted away to keep the yard tidy. While a tidy yard can feel nice, the leaves can be a real benefit to the landscape, which would be greatly benefited if the leaves were kept.

Rather than discarding your leaves, they can be used to improve your soil. This can be done in a few ways. If you have a compost pile, leaves make a great addition, as they are carbon-rich (other compostable carbon-rich materials include newspapers, non-waxy cardboard, and tree branches). Shredding leaves will speed up the decomposition process, and will also reduce the physical space that they take up. This can be helpful if you want your compost pile to be contained. Leaves are also a great natural mulch and can be included as a mulch layer around your landscape plants. This will help your soil building processes, as leaves will decompose and attract soil microbes and decomposers, increasing life through the breakdown process. And then they’ll add to your soil’s organic matter, which directly benefits your soil, and therefore your plants’ health.

In order to reduce the amount of lawn being smothered by leaves in the fall, you can always replace areas of grass with landscape beds that have a mix of your favorite trees, shrubs, flowering and edible plants that will love the natural leaf mulch provided by larger trees. If that’s not possible, then you can still re-locate the leaves off of your grass and spread them over your existing landscape and garden beds. This natural mulch layer adds protection for soil organisms and wildlife species such as turtles, butterflies, and bumblebees to have habitat throughout the coldest months of the year.

I hope that you will join me in keeping your leaves to maintain precious nutrients, provide wildlife with habitat, and build healthier soil for healthier plants in your yard this year, instead of shipping your precious leaves off to rot away in a landfill.