Should I Leave My Leaves In The Landscape?
To leave or not to leave, that is the question and the answer is yes, and no. Timing, type of leave, depth of beds and so and health of the plants dictate the benefit of leaf matter in your beds. Stiff hard leaves like those below take time to break down and should be cut back and thrown in your compost pile after the last freeze.
In Central Texas one of the most popular trees are the Live Oaks and as beautiful and stately as they are in the landscape, they can also be a pain in the hiney when they decide to drop all million leaves over the course of a few days. It can be a tremendous amount of work to keep a lawn alive or beds from drowning in the ocean of leaves that drop.
A common question about Live Oak leaves is what in the world do you do with them. Unfortunately, the answer is they have to be removed and bagged for the city recycling program or added to your compost pile. A mulching lawnmower can also be a huge help in breaking down these hard leaves that can take years to decompose otherwise. The same is true for huge leaves that cover too much of the lawn or beds. If you have especially course leaves, acorns, leathery or oversized leaves on your lawn, you will need to remove them to avoid suffocation of plants and lawn. If you don’t have a compost bin or pile, make one. You Live Oak tree owners will have a LOT of valuable compost over the years or a whole lotta bagging up to do.
However, if you have healthy fruit trees, crepe myrtles, Red oaks or any soft leaved trees and plants, those can be worked right into the soil over the winter months. These leaves will decompose by the end of the season and be ready for planting in the spring. If your beds are void of mulch, spread the soft leaves across the tops of your beds and mulch over the top to cover. Water well and keep moist for about a week or so to encourage the microbes to get eating, then you will be well on your way to better soil. Earth worms also love leaf matter as do other beneficials so they will be working for you while you’re snuggling through the winter.
Large leaves and oversized bark mulch can steal more nitrogen from the soil to break down than the nutrients they provide. Sick plants and tree leaves should also be raked up to prevent spreading of pests and diseases like the sooty mildew below.
Adding compost each spring and fall is crucial to the success of your lawn and garden. Amending your soil throughout the year with items you may use every day like egg shells, coffee grounds and banana peels are also an excellent way to promote microbial growth and micorrhizal fungi. Decaying leaf matter provides layers of food broken down in various stages for a ready nitrogen and carbon source. Nitrogen is the green stuff and carbon is the brown stuff; (Also know as compost) which can save the world.
So don’t be in a big hurry to remove every little leaf from your yard. Your lawn may not appreciate being covered with leaves, but your beds will really benefit from it and so will the planet when they don’t end up in a land fill. Rake, recycle, compost and regenerate those leaves into beautiful new soil when you can. If you have hard or waxy leaves, create a compost pile to break them down so you can use them as compost at a later date. You will be creating a natural environment for your garden just like Mother Nature does.
if you live in Austin or the surrounding area and would like help with your landscape care, organic solutions, plant choices and so much more, contact me for a Landscape Consultation/ Garden Coach service at firstname.lastname@example.org or text me at 512-733-7777.
Lisa’s Landscape & Design (like me on Facebook)
“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”