Leave the leaves!

Gardening with Nature

Article by Sigrie Kendrick

Leave the leaves!

Don’t stress over fall garden clean-up.  Just leave the leaves on the ground where they fall.

I have to question why, as gardeners, we are so obsessed with the big fall clean-up, including raking or blowing all the fallen leaves into piles, shoveling them into plastic bags and sending them off to the landfill—or even to be composted centrally.

It’s a tradition we really should reconsider.

In fact, this is counter-productive behaviour. Instead, we would like to educate everyone about the many benefits of leaving the leaves where they fall in the fall.

Let us mimic what occurs naturally, in contrast to our need to clean, control and manipulate our natural environment.

Close up of fall leaves in the garden

There’s a reason for everything in nature.

Leaves are nature’s nutrient recyclers.

For example, with the shorter days of light in the fall, the leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs fall to the ground and act as a mulch, which suppresses weeds, protects the roots of perennials from the winter cold and feeds the soil as they decay.

Their decomposition creates rich organic matter in the soil that helps your garden become lush and beautiful.

Leaving your tree, shrub, and perennial ‘mess’ in place over winter also provides a source of food and sanctuary for a whole host of small mammals, birds, and insects.

Dried leaves turning into mulch
If you can’t bear the sight of the perceived ‘mess’ then consider adding your fallen leaves to your own compost. The leaves will serve as the ‘brown’ component of your compost. Add the last of your grass clippings to provide the ‘green’ component, and you will be on your way to making nutritious compost that can be used for top-dressing your garden next season. Improving your soil health is one of the seven principles of xeriscape and is an important step in creating soil with better structure and moisture-holding capabilities.

Sigrie Kendrick is a Master Gardener and Executive-Director of the Okanagan Xeriscape Association. She can be reached at 778-363-8360 or by email at exec_dir@okanaganxeriscape.org.

As a group blog and forum, we really appreciate your contributions and comments and hope to create a blossoming community of xeriscape gardeners well as a valuable archive of articles.


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