leaves fall garden

What To Do With Leaves In The Fall Garden

What To Do With Leaves In The Fall Garden

Here’s how to deal with your leaves in your fall garden this year and not be blinded by what you did last year.

Is it better to rake leaves or chop them up and so end them?
Or is it better to end their stuggles and by so doing…
(with apologies to the bard)

A conversation got started by some friends and they turned to me for the answer. (Never get into this kind of conversation if you can help it.) 🙂

It turns out that the “wife” wanted their leaves raked and the “guy” wanted them chopped/blown.

My answer was that it was his “wife” and not mine.

Chop ‘Em Up Easily

I have said in the past that I’m a great fan of chopping them up with a lawn mower and leaving them on the lawn if there are not too many of them. The worms will get them next spring and use them to enrich the lawn and recycle nutrients back to the trees.

The problem obviously comes if there are too many of them. This then requires raking and removal of this layer.

Otherwise, the grass under the leaves may be smothered.

Why Buy A Noisy Leaf Blower?

If you want to remove leaves from the lawn, I also believe quite seriously in using the lawn mower to blow the leaves into windrows. Not only does this move them easily but it also chops them up nicely so they break down quite quickly in the compost pile.

Having spent a few pleasant hours with a leaf rake has never changed my mind about this but I will say the leaf rake is far neater and leaves far less rubble on the lawn. You’ll get a neater, cleaner “look” to your lawn with a rake than with a mower. So if neatness now is important to you, by all means take those rakes to work.

In my garden? I don’t rake leaves at all. The lawn mower may chop them up but they all stay where they land/lie. Some get blown away by our island winds but any that remain are perfectly welcome to lie there. The’ll be gone by spring anyway (and yes, we have maples, willows, locust and mulberry trees shedding) Too much work for this head gardener. The worms get them by late spring anyway so why should I do all that work?

And if you need a good leaf rake – Fiskars makes some really solid ones.

Do You Remember Being a Kid With A Leaf Pile?

Do you remember being a kid in the fall garden with a leaf pile? Do you remember the response from the adults to your leaf pile? Let me assure you the effect some fifty years later is still the same when I see a huge pile of leaves. I want to jump into it. I want to scatter those leaves around and have leaf fights.

Do you remember the leaf fights? If there were anybody who was slower than I was, they might even have wound up with a few leaves stuffed down the back of their shirts. Or I’d wind up with some down mine. It was amazing how fast on their feet we all became. A leaf pile is indeed a thing of beauty and fun.

If You Do Rake Your Leaves

If you do rake your leaves, put them on the flower garden now (or bag them, keep them dry over the winter and spread them next spring.)

Next spring’s garden will also be a thing of beauty when those composted leaves start doing their thing. You won’t believe the effect they will have on garden soil and the growth of your plants. Use the half-composted leaves as mulch and watch the worms make great soil from it. If the leaves last past the end of July, your worms are lazy or you don’t have enough of them.

I’ve seen a well-establish worm population take three to four inches of leaf compost and make it disappear into the soil by the end of July. If you haven’t been feeding your worms, it may take a year or two to get the population up to the numbers to eat all your leaves but give them a few years and they’ll do wonders for your soil.

Only Non-gardeners Bag Their Leaves In The Fall Garden

But never, ever, bag your leaves up and send them to the landfill. When I see those bags at the end of driveways, I know real gardeners don’t live there. I know they’ll be spending money next year to feed their garden instead of letting the trees do it for them.

What a waste.

The one thing to have a better garden and save money? Use those leaves – leave them lie or compost them but don’t get rid of them.

And Burning?

Should never, ever be done.

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7 thoughts on “What To Do With Leaves In The Fall Garden”

  1. I wonder if this really applies in the San Francisco Bay Area where we have annual and perennials for every season and no snow to cover piles of leaves in the front yards where there is an expectation of street appeal all year around.

  2. Marilyn – I have two responses. The first is that local geography always trumps any advice. So if I had a four-season garden, then I’d likely cut up and blow the leaves onto the garden beds as mulch – or if there were too many of them, I’d pick them up and compost them. As for meeting other’s expectations of my garden – I’m a failure in that regard. I garden for myself – always have – and if others don’t like it – tough. But then again, I sometimes write outrageous things too. LOL!

  3. Hey Doug
    I do what you do, as I have one big maple tree in the backyard. And I go one step further. Once my mulching bagging lawn mower does its thing, my 7 horse tiller mixes them into my 15 x 20 ft. vegetable garden. 8 inches down. My garden has never been without a worm. My soil is excellent. Been doing this over 20 years. 🙂

  4. Hey Doug
    Wondering if the same applies to massive amounts of pine needles?? Wow, this year there seems to be way more falling than usual, and I’m not sure I can leave them on the grass??

  5. I’d remove needles from the grass. They don’t break down as quickly as leaves do. They will compost eventually but slowly..

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