Blazing red autumn maples

This time of year, we are easily reminded why this season is referred to as “Fall.”  Fallen leaves are invariably a symbol of Autumn, as well as a yearly chore to remove from one’s yard.  But what if we told you that those leaves are more than they appear to be?  That they can be easily repurposed to enrich your landscape and save you money on your garden?  Now that would be something.  Our JMD designer, lifelong gardener and sustainability expert Linnea Lion suggested this post and offered much of the garden wisdom found below!

Grapevines losing their leaves in fall

For home gardeners and backyard farmers, the annual leaf drop is like a holiday all its own.  This is because leaves are rich in nutrients that, once returned to the garden, promote happy soil and thriving plants.  Leaves can be used in the garden as a mulch to condition the soil and retain moisture, or can be composted into a rich blend.  Like the bagged compost available at your local nursery, only free of plastic bags and free of charge!

Colorful autumn trees in the landscape

Now, we’re not saying to leave those leaves everywhere to rot.  In fact, you can tidy your yard to look completely leafless while keeping all or most of your leaves on-site.  The trick is to gather those leaves and then transform them, with nature’s magic, into something really useful.  If you’re new to this kind of thing, explore easy options for a Compost Bin, Tumbler Bin, or Johnson’s Bioreactor for easy at-home leaf-recycling. The Tumbler Bin is a favorite of ours – Easy, neat, and compact for tight spaces.  Just fill with garden waste and turn the handle occasionally as you walk past to provide aeration.  Adding water from time to time will speed up the process, providing you with rich compost before you know it.

100% Composted Leaves from 2021

If you’re feeling averse to composting or if you simply don’t have space for one of these setups, opt for the simple way of repurposing your leaves.  Place leaves into a large bin, and using a weed-whacker, shred them into smaller pieces to spread directly into your planting beds or under trees and shrubs. So easy!  It is important to remember that the leaves must be completely dry, so as to avoid bacterial and fungal growth in the soil.  Wear a mask and protective eyewear while shredding, of course.

From a gardener’s standpoint, not all leaves are created equal.  Sycamores in our area are prone to the fungal disease anthracnose, and a tree suspected of having the fungus should have fallen leaves removed from the landscape (this goes for any diseased tree or shrub.)  There are also a few common trees with leaves that actually hinder growth, and these are not going to benefit the soil in your planted areas.  Live Oak, Black Walnut, and Eucalyptus leaves are the most common here in the Bay – You will notice that few plants grow naturally under these trees due to their leaf drop.  On the other hand, if you have these trees in your landscape, you may find that the natural carpet of leaves is useful for preventing weeds.

Maple leaves showing signs of fungal disease

Maple leaves showing signs of fungal disease

We hope you are all doing well out there as the season changes.  We are here just working along, composing our landscape designs and decomposing our leaves.  And… we are continuing to take new clients!  If you have interest in transforming your landscape, we would love to hear from you.

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