Now’s the season when we practice strange rituals. No, not decorating our bushes with spider webs and skeletons. I’m referring to raking and blowing leaves onto the street, to be carted away by municipal workers. It’s puzzling why we remove a free source of nutrients for the soil, pay workers (through taxes) to cart them away, only to buy it back in the form of compost from landscapers.
Now a group of Bedford environmentalists and Westchester master gardeners are on a campaign to stop this ritual, by educating the public on the benefits of fallen leaves. The campaign, called “Leave Leaves Alone“, implores homeowners and landscapers to simply mow over the fallen leaves with a regular or mulching mower (a curved blade that can be fitted onto a regular mower). Mowing over a thick coat of leaves a couple of times grinds the leaves so small that they sink between the grass blades, improving soil texture and feeding the micro-organisms that are so important to soil health.
Ground-up leaves are such an excellent organic fertilizer for your lawn and garden beds, there’s no need to purchase expensive fertilizer treatments. With a few million years of evolution under its belt, nature has recycling nutrients down to a science. Healthy soil, healthy grass. In the process, we create less pollution and save tax dollars on fuel and manpower. Click here if you still need more convincing.
An Abundance of Leaves
If you have a lot of trees, mulching them into the lawn cannot make them all disappear. I rake extra leaves into my garden beds. They protect my plants over the winter, modulate soil temperature and prevent soil erosion. By next fall, all the leaves have been consumed by the worms and other soil critters into dark, rich compost. If you don’t like the natural “forest floor” look, you can cover the whole bed in winter with a layer of shredded mulch, for a cleaner style.
Now is the time to have a talk with your gardener. They may balk at this practice, since most only know the outdated way to clear leaves. Be firm. It may take a few mentions to the head boss before your lawn crew gets the message that you want to mulch the leaves into your lawn, and put the extra leaves in your beds. Your soil will thank you by growing thicker, healthier shrubs and grass without chemicals.
Notify your landscape company about these upcoming demo/training session:
Thursday, November 3, 7:30 pm at Eastchester Town Hall
To reserve a spot or for more info contact Anne Jaffe Holmes 914-813-1251, firstname.lastname@example.org
Catherine Wachs is The Lazy Gardener, a Larchmont-based landscape designer.