I have a neighbor who seems to have made it her mission in life to rid her lawn of every single fallen leaf. She comes out every morning and rakes like a crazy woman. Every morning! I'm quite sure she's appalled by my behavior regarding fallen leaves. I have plenty of them, with seven fair to large-sized trees on my lot. And my lawn, front and back, as well as my garden beds, are covered with them. Well, that's not entirely true---the ones in back have been raked into a humongous leaf pile for my kids (as well as my husband and I) to jump in.
Isn't this what leaves are for?
This entry was sparked by an entry I read over at Dirt Under My Nails, where millionbells talks about her dismay upon returning home to her subdivision to see the common areas completely "cleaned" of all of their leaves. It got me thinking about how weird some people, and communities, are about leaf clean-up. Like my neighbor, many people seem to think that leaving leaves on their lawn is a crime, that it either looks messy, or will ruin their lawn, or both. First of all, it doesn't look messy, it looks natural. But, I know that some people can't stand the natural look, hence all of the artificially green lawns I see--those lawns strung out on so many chemicals that they have now turned a shade of green you just don't normally see in your average lawn.
As far as leaves on lawns go, if you have a very heavy layer of leaves (and even I don't have a heavy layer, with seven trees) go ahead and rake them so they don't smother the lawn. In general, just do this before it snows and they all get packed down---because that will suffocate the grass. Other than that, it's much better to mow over them and let them fall where they are so that they can help nourish the soil.
For leaves that fall in beds, there are a couple ways to go. If your bed is mainly made up of shrubs and trees, just leave the leaves alone. You don't need to shred them, and you definitely don't need to rake them out. Does anyone go out into the woods and shred the leaves so they don't cause damage? Of course not, and somehow the trees, shrubs, and vines in the forests all make it just fine. If you have a bed with perennials in it, rake the leaves away from the crowns of the plants, which can cause rot. Go ahead and shred some up with your mower or leaf-vac and apply them around the plant.
For veggie gardens, here's a great trick: once the bed is done for the year, leave the leaves on the bed, and rake in even more from other areas of the yard. Once you have a nice pile on your veggie bed, run your lawn mower over them. Either till them in or let them sit on top of the bed over the winter and till them in in spring. Talk about easy composting!
I know I don't need to tell my readers not to throw their leaves away---I'm positive you all compost....right? Right, of course
So, love your leaves, learn to let go a little. Carve a pumpkin, jump in a leaf pile, watch football---the leaves don't need that much help, thanks.
How do you handle leaves? Are you determined to keep a nice, neat garden, or, like me, are you fine with being a little messy? I'd love to hear from you! add to del.icio.us