To Leaf Out or Not?

As temperatures continue to inch upward, trees are leafing out, and many garden and yard enthusiasts are out gathering up the remnants of last autumn's leaves and teasing out sandy deposits, which remain in our gardens and lawns. Is it wise to remove those leaves? The answer is that “it depends.”

On lawns, one does not want to leave large accumulations of leaves, as it will challenge the grass, and likely create areas to be reseeded.  Some leaves dispersed throughout a lawn will not harm the grass, and actually decompose to enrich the soils beneath.  

What one does in their gardens depends upon the garden. Leaves can benefit a garden in many ways. Leaves act as a mulch to reduce weed growth and to moderate temperatures; add organic matter to feed microbes thus enriching your soil; leaves provide a haven for various beneficial insects; and it provides a barrier to the compaction caused by foot traffic in our garden spaces.

So, with abundant benefits, why would one remove their leaves from the gardens? Generally, it is best to leave up to 2” of your leaves on your gardens, but if one of your gardens is a rain garden or a boulevard garden designed to accept water runoff, then one needs to avoid the possibility of diminishing the water holding capacity of these specialty gardens as a result of ever increasing accumulations of various mulches. 

If one feels compelled to remove the debris left behind by autumn and winter, I would recommend sweeping your driveway, sidewalks and curb/gutters, so that the spring rains do not send large accumulations of sediments and organic matter into our lakes, rivers, streams and the like.  Last week, the efforts of the Green Space team on various properties kept several cubic yards of this left over litter from entering a metro water body, which once there, would only lead to undesirable green growths and hampered water quality.

Each of us can be more GREEN by keeping these things in mind, and truthfully, reduce the time we spend tending to our yards, as NATURE has a rather unique way of managing garden health, as long as we work with her in her efforts!