I guestimate that every autumn two hundred tons of leaves fall on my property. Well, perhaps a bit less, but it seems like it. With three hundred feet of property line bordering a forest of towering maples and tulip poplars, and fifty or more smaller trees that I’ve planted, there are plenty of leaves.
I don’t rake, and I don’t bag to haul them away. This seems to be such a waste of a valuable resource, and besides, it’s more work. The leaves that fall on the small lawn areas are run over with the mower until the pieces are fine enough to filter down into the grass. The leaves decay quickly and add small amounts of nitrogen to the soil to feed the lawn.
In the large garden beds the leaves often accumulate in thick piles, and paths and patios are covered completely. A hand held blower/vacuum shreds the leaves while a walk behind leaf vacuum takes up space in the garden shed, having proven to be too cumbersome to maneuver the stone paths and uneven terrain. Though time consuming because of its small size, the hand held vacuum does its work efficiently without sucking up every stick and rock in its path, and the leaves are pulverized to a wonderfully fine texture.
On the patios and beside the garden ponds the shredded leaves are captured in a bag and then spread over beds at the rear of the garden, and a bag or two are tossed on the compost pile. In other areas the bag is left off so that the small bits of leaves are blown randomly over the garden as mulch.
Even the most dreadful soil is quickly transformed after a three or four inch layer of shredded leaves covers it. Soil that is nearly impossible to dig in becomes crumbly as worms work their magic.
If possible, I try to get to the leaves while they’re dry, but much like the garden, I’m winding down, so often there are vast piles still to be removed in late winter. Then, they are damp and matted, so that their removal is so much more difficult.
So, I’ll spend a few hours this weekend vacuuming and grinding leaves, then some next week, and once the paths are cleared and the ground covers uncovered I’ll rest. Whenever the weather cooperates through the winter, when I’m itching to get out of the house to work up a bit of a sweat, I’ll finish the work, but the deadline is a long way off. Without any danger in smothering low growing plants I have only to be rid of the piles before growth begins in April.