Leave the Leaves

Viburnum leaves in autumn.

Leaves seldom gather in our lawn-free and west-facing front garden, which is swept by prevailing winds from the north-west. To help retain the leaves that fall, I don’t cut back the perennials until after frost, and when I cut them back, I leave 12″ stems standing. This helps trap some leaves and holds them fast until the snow comes in and covers them.

In the back garden, sheltered by the house, fences, and denser growth, the leaves fall and remain mostly inside our own boundaries (except those from the taller trees—I hope our neighbors appreciate our gifts!). We rake the leaves from the path and our small lawn area and spread them over the beds that need them, and every spring the perennials rise again through the gently decaying leaf litter.

Any there any problems associated with letting leaves lie? Keeping the leaves off any lawn areas is important to prevent the development of mold in spring. In some areas, the wind may cause unusually deep accumulations of leaves, and these are best spread out onto other deserving areas. Some may worry about pests and diseases surviving in the leaves through the winter, but this is seldom a real problem: the leaves are just as likely to be protecting beneficial insects, spiders, and other cool invertebrates. And, finally, if you are in the envious position of having too many leaves, don’t forget to feed the compost bin!

(for more info visit leaveleavesalone.org and Nature Conservancy)

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