After Susan’s leaf blower post a while back, we heard from friend of Rant Terry Ettinger. Turns out he is also an enemy of leaf blowers and discarding leaves as trash, and has a piece in a recent Fine Gardening urging gardeners to lightly mow their leaves where they lay, so that they can enrich the soil, whether they have fallen on grass or on perennial beds. Or, he suggests, the leaves could be raked into wire enclosures, where, with a few additions, they would transform themselves into compost. Or they could be used for sheet composting on annual beds, where they would be shredded with the mower, enriched with some light fertilizer, and turned and watered regularly.
I find these ideas very interesting, and love the whole notion of making lemonade out of the yearly deluge of leaf matter. Fall foliage is generally considered a nuisance once it’s off the tree. I know my neighbor is out with her broom every morning, sweeping it up; sometimes I think she’s got a hidden camera pointed at the trees, and it’s able to discern which leaves fall from the trees on her side and which come from my trees. Those she sweeps over to our property. (God, I wish I was kidding.)
I have a few caveats with all this. If the leaves are raked up and composted in a composter, that seems equally beneficial, for those of us who don’t care to wait until they decompose naturally. Sadly, not all leaves are created equal, and when heavy maple leaves fall on dense ground cover, they’re not going to decompose any time soon. I think I still have leaves from a year ago sitting behind some shrubs in the front.
And while I agree wholeheartedly that the idea of leaves going into a landfill is tragic, our city is finally starting a municipal composting program. If that helps raise awareness about using compost for those who still think garden nourishment comes out of a bottle of Scotts, then I like the idea of the city picking up the leave sand composting them.
So, it’s a more complex issue for urban gardeners or gardeners like me, with no grass and evergreen ground cover. Still, I agree that the time for the average gardener to think of fall leaves as something other than a bane of their existence has definitely come.
ADDENDUM: My bad! I had not read Susan’s article on leaf removal when I posted or I would have thrown her thoughts into the mix. Do read it; it adds another dimension to this important and fascinating topic.