Leave your Leaves
It’s that time of year when, as I drive through nearby neighbourhoods, I see this:
Bags upon bags of leaves. This one particular house had over 100 bags of leaves and while most houses have maybe 5 bags sitting at the edge of the road, it doesn’t change the fact that these leaves are priceless.
And by priceless, I mean worth more than you can imagine. When a leaf falls from a tree, it contains carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium along with numerous other important micronutrients. As these leaves break down, these nutrients move into the soil where they will be sucked up by other plants and maybe, again, by the same tree that grew the leaves the previous year.
Bagging up your leaves and setting them out to be taken by the ‘green’ truck and composted by the city just seems backwards to me. In the spring, these are the same people who are buying bags of mulch and compost or, even worse, buying compost back from the city.
The best thing you can do with your leaves is to run them over with the lawn mower. Of course, make sure any large sticks and all of the kids’ (or dog’s) toys have been picked up. Run them over a few times and use a mulching mower for best results. You can just leave them in place and the majority will break down over the winter.
If you have oak trees, the leaves are much thicker and don’t break down quite as quickly. If you have only a small percentage of these leaves, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. If you have a goodly amount, mow them and move them to garden beds and use them as mulch. They are also great to use around roses and other semi-tender plants that benefit from a little winter protection (other leaves will work for this purpose, too).
By removing the leaves from the property completely, you are removing the nutrients from the soil. Trees drop their leaves in hopes of picking up those nutrients again in the spring. Do them a favour and leave your leaves close by. They’ll thank you with a healthy canopy and shade on those sweltering summer days.