Autumn Leaves: Let Them Be


In the fall, you see people raking or blowing leaves, and leaves make up about eight million tons of trash generated each year. But, dried leaves are to a garden what mother's milk is to a baby - about as close to a perfect food as nature ever invented. Dried leaves contain 50 percent to 80 percent of the nutrients their trees sucked out of the earth in a season. Return those nutrients to the soil, and you'll give life to crucial soil-dwelling organisms, promote strong plants and trees next year, and eliminate the need for synthetic fertilizers.

Audubon At Home has some tips for how to do this:

  • Let them be. Leaves can protect trees and shrubs by moderating the soil moisture and temperature, and providing them with rich nutrients. And birds love leaves--they use them to build nests, they forage around them for bugs, and they burrow into them for shelter.
  • Mulch away. You can either cut up the leaves with a lawn mower or shredder, or you can keep them whole, and spread a thin (two to three inch) layer over your gardens and around trees or plants. They are a natural fertilizer. Remember, No one rakes up leaves in the forest.
  • Compost the leftovers. If you have a compost bin, add in the leftover leaves. If you don't, visit your local government's website. Today, most municipalities collect leaves for mulch. So, instead of bagging up and tossing leaves into a landfill, make good use of them--they are nature's vitamins!
  • Avoid leaf blowers. They use a ton of energy, they are noisy. Leaf blowers created noise pollution and air pollution, plus many burn fossil fuels.  Rev one up and even the birds fly away.