What Should I Do With All These Leaves?

Oct 2, 2017 | Gardens

I’ve gotten a couple of emails recently from people who are already dreading the annual leaf drop on their property. One man was tired of paying to have the leaves hauled away. Another couple wondered if there was an easier way to compost the leaves than putting them in a huge pile and waiting for them to break down. At the same time, I heard from a former consultation client that she was excited about the approach of fall foliage season because she just loved what the Fothergilla ‘Blue Shadow’ does every autumn.

I applauded the man who wrote the first email and encouraged him to keep those leaves on his property. Not only should he not be paying to haul them away, but once they get chopped by a lawnmower or leaf shredder, he could use them as mulch around his shrubs and trees. The couple was given the same advice: chop them up and put them in your beds immediately. No hauling them to a pile, waiting for them to compost and then hauling them back to the gardens. Let the leaves compost in place, as nature intended.

Once oak leaves are chopped they make attractive mulch that stays put in the landscape.

People often think of Maple trees for great fall foliage color, but other woody plants are equally magical in autumn. This is the fall color on Cotinus ‘Grace’ – one of the smoke trees.

‘Blue Shadow’ Fothergilla leaves turn a rich mix of red, yellow, blue and purple in the fall. This part of our yard becomes carpeted with a variety of leaves, including oak and maple. We leave many of them where they fall, but occasionally mow over some to chop them and use these as mulch in the blueberry patch nearby.

So what should you do with all of those leaves? Fall in love. Cherish them before and after they drop.

Listen to the Plantrama podcast about leaves here.  This program discusses several landscaping myths: first that oak leaves and pine needles make soil acidic, second that Epsom Salt is beneficial for gardens and solving assorted landscape problems, and finally that dandelions are so horrible that they are a threat to our American way of life. (As we explain, the lowly dandelion is actually a member of the Mayflower Society…)

1 Comment

  1. judy vaz

    For years I’ve been mowing my leaves and then using them as mulch or working them in when I’m planning a new bed for spring. They are excellent as a weed suppressor and the earthworms go nuts. It also gives me a head start in the spring as I’ve mulched in Oct and November! I never seem to have enough and I’ve been known to snatch the paper bags of leaves at the end of my neighbor’s driveways. Can’t wait for the leaves to fall…Mike however wishes he could will them to stay on the trees!!


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