Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Leaves. Beginning mid-October and until mid-November, leaves occupy every weekend. If I am not at the arboreteum, hitting the trails, I'm in the yard, dealing with the endless leaves.

Once upon a time we used to bag them whole and put them by the curb and pay to have someone take them away. That got pricey. We have 35+ trees on our lot and we were spending big bucks having them hauled away. That practice morphed into leaf chopping. We would spend the entire weekend blowing all the leaves into the driveway into a huge mound and then spend a couple of hours going over them with a lawn mower to chop them into fine particles. This created a new problem, ridiculously heavy bags. The picker upper people refused to pick them up. The light bulb moment came when a woman at my husband's work offered to take them all off our hands every year forever...for her garden.

Before this time, my relationship with leave clean-up was not positive. Once we blew it off, got a week straight of rain and went out to find an completely dead and rotting lawn. I resented having to spend the last great weather weekends with this chore. That was before I knew the magic of leaf mold.

Now things are very different. I have kids that are old enough to really help and young enough to still respond to bribes. Judicious pruning has reduced the overall amount of leaves we have to deal with, but most importantly, I have tasted the magic that leaf mold does for the soil. We are probably 3/4 done with it for this year. This was the easiest year yet. Instead of blowing 100% of them into the driveway, I blew a bunch of them into the beds and just chopped them to smithereens there. From the driveway I still have 14 full bags of very fine mulch to spread around but I'm not giving any away. This stuff is gold!


Randy Emmitt said...

Seems to much to have to do the leaves every weekend. We just wait until they are done then deal with them in one weekend. One year I left them to the ground, it snowed 20 inches not normal for Durham, NC and the deer came and found the acorns left under the snow. Couldn't get out the driveway for nine daysd but I did get to enjoy the winter deer. Since we have planted a lot of white and red clover to replace the grass that never wants to thrive here.

Erin @ The Impatient Gardener said...

Just last weekend we got a mower that will mulch and bag leaves and I'm WAY too excited about it. You're so right about leaf mold.

Beautiful photo by the way.

MrBrownThumb @ Chicago Garden said...

I was going through my RSS reader and your picture stopped me dead in my tracks. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful sight!

Daphne said...

I am so like the woman at your husband's work. You don't want your leaves? I'll take them. I just picked up some more yesterday. I haven't mowed them up yet though. Maybe tomorrow I'll have time.

garden girl said...

It took a couple of years to convince my husband to use the leaves on our gardens, but he's fan of the practice now. It's so, so much easier and cheaper than bagging them. The last few years since we've been using the leaves as mulch, I've lost very few plants over the winter. The first couple of years I gardened here, there were a lot of losses due to freeze/thaw cycle heaving, deer and rodent foraging and digging over the winter, and I think just plain bitter, windy, icy winter conditions. The last three years our winters have been more severe than usual, and I would have expected to lose more, not less plants under the circumstances. It wasn't until this year that I made the connection between the insulating, hiding ability of all that leafy goodness with the much higher winter survival rate of the garden plants. I don't think it's coincidence.

Stacy said...

Thanks Erin! Happy Bagging!

Mr. Brown Thumb it was taken on trail three at the Morton Arboreteum in Lisle. Colors have since peaked but there is still plenty of pretty to be seen.

I've noticed the same thing Garden girl. Better survival and less heaving too. I even had rosemary make it thru the winter last year. A first for me!