This year, you may not have been able to enjoy the beautiful fall colors for as long as you would have liked. Most people love the fall season because of the change in colors. The brilliant orange of sugar maples, the rich yellow of the Ginkgo, and the reds, purples, and browns of oaks… all help us to stop and take in the colors before they are blanketed with the white snow.
During this time of year, we praise ourselves for raking leaves from our lawns and beds. We feel so good about having all the leaves picked up and our yards looking pristine. However, by raking all the leaves, we rob the plants of organic matter, we rob them of nutrients. We are creating conditions that are not the best for trees, lawns and landscapes.
What’s the solution? How do you help provide suitable conditions for your landscapes without abandoning leaf cleanup and annoying the neighbors?
Here are a few things we can consider:
Mow over leaves instead of raking them. Though this may have limited benefit to a tree’s roots due to the aggressive nature of turf and its ability to successfully compete for water and nutrients, mowing over them does help return some leaf litter to the yard and possibly increase the amount of organic matter in the soil.
Wherever possible, try to leave the leaves that fall and let them break down over the winter months. Perennial beds located around trees are a great place for this, where you should be considering leaving the dead perennial tops until spring for the same reason. Whether that approach is right or wrong is largely a matter of opinion but leaving leaf debris to decompose and breakdown over the winter helps us add nutrients to the soil and provides a safe haven for “good” insects.
It is recommended that turfgrass be removed from within the drip line of a tree. The leaves that fall each year will then be able to stay within this area, decompose, and provide vital nutrients back to the tree. One of the best things you can do for your trees is to increase the space around them and under them that is void of turfgrass. This will reduce the amount of competition for water and nutrients, and allow for a larger area of soil that you can improve with leaf litter or other soil amendments. It’s important to exercise caution if you choose to remove the turf around your trees so as not to damage the roots that may be present immediately underneath. If you decide to go this route but want some help, give us a call, we can help recommend steps to get where you want to be.
To summarize, chop/mow up your leaves this fall rather than picking them up, your plants and lawn will thank you.