Leaving the leaves this fall
After an enjoyable summer, fall has finally arrived, and many of us with gardens will soon start to clean them up in preparation for the winter. This typically involves the removal of dead annual flowers, planting a few bulbs for the spring, and raking the leaves. If you live in an area with a lot of trees, you are probably familiar with the seemingly endless task of raking your leaves.
At the beginning of the spring season, we wrote about leaving your leaves in the garden, as they serve as a home for larvae, microbes and worms. These creatures are essential for soil health and provide a food source for birds and other wildlife. But leaving your leaves during the fall also has many other environmental benefits that can help you support a healthy yard.
In addition to providing shelter and food for various wildlife, the leaves will be composted over the winter into nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen and minerals that feed the following year’s crop of grass. The natural slow release of the nutrients will provide a consistent food source for your plants. The organic matter helps to improve the soil structure and fertility and will benefit the plants in your garden in the long run. You can also rake the leaves into garden beds or flower beds or use them as mulch around trees. This is also an effective way to build soil fertility and help encourage the growth of your plants in the spring.
The decomposed or partially decomposed leaves (referred to as leaf mold) help improve soil structure. It loosens heavy clay soils by adding draining properties to it. It also increases water retention in sandy soils by improving their water-holding capacity. The decomposed leaves can also help regulate soil pH levels, making them more suitable for a wide range of plants. Decomposed leaves tend to be slightly acidic, which can counteract alkaline soils.
Fallen leaves are also a natural mulch that helps insulate and protect the soil. This natural mulch will prevent soil erosion by reducing the impact of raindrops and maintaining soil moisture by reducing evaporation. You can create smaller mulch levels with a lawnmower that creates a thin layer that will enrich the soil while allowing the grass to receive sunlight.
If you do not want to leave your leaves in your garden, add them to your compost pile. The leaves can be used to cover layers of kitchen food waste throughout the winter. By the spring, you will see that the leaves will be converted into rich soil that can be used as a natural fertilizer for your outdoor plants and flower beds when the weather gets warmer.
Additionally, leaving the leaves this fall has economic and environmental benefits. By leaving the leaves, you reduce the amount of yard waste that needs to be collected and disposed of. It reduces the need for leaf bags you need to purchase. Leaving your leaves also reduces your carbon footprint and saves resources. Leaving the leaves this fall can help suppress weed growth by preventing some weed seeds from germinating. This can reduce the need for chemical weed control or labour-intensive weeding.
By leaving the leaves this fall, you will see a difference in your garden and soil next spring. Doing so allows nature to take over and do what it does best without human intervention. By leaving the leaves, we’re allowing the natural cycle to continue, which will benefit the environment and our gardens. So this fall, make sure to leave the leaves and watch what will happen.