When Autumn Leaves Start to Fall

In the village that borders us a few blocks to the west and south, leaf burning is prohibited, but it is allowed and practiced as a seasonal rite in our township.  I’m not advocating a ban on burning, but I really wish the neighbors understood what they are wasting.  While I was working hard today to get as many leaves as I could into my garden, I could see at least four smoke trails in the neighborhood.  Too bad for the leaf burners, they could be making some beautiful compost for free.

I spent a lot more time weeding my garden this year than I should have because I did not do a good job last fall of getting my beds totally covered with leaves.  I’m determined not to make that mistake again.  Since I took the picture above I’ve drug in several more tarps full of leaves.  The south beds are now almost all completely and deeply covered.  I’ll keep dragging in more until I either run out of leaves or the weather puts an end to my efforts.

I began covering my garden beds with leaves about seven or eight years ago.  It pays off in many ways.  Weed growth is slowed down through the winter and the beds are noticeably softer in the spring.  In many instances all I have to do is rake back the leaf cover and start planting.  The beds that do not get planted right away have a thick leaf mulch to keep weeds from sprouting, and as I rake the leaves off the beds they break down in the paths and continue to suppress weed growth.  Of course, the most important benefits are the free fertilizer and compost the leaves provide as they decompose.  The tilth of my extremely clayey soil is noticeably improved.  Every year my beds get softer.

Raking leaves and dragging them into the garden is not the easiest  of chores.  This year I’ve employed mechanical assistance.  In years past I was dragging tarps full of leaves from the yard to the garden using only my brute strength.  I may still be a brute but my strength is fading, so this year I used the lawnmower and its 18 horses to do the heavy hauling.  It worked wonderfully.

And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song, but I know the autumn leaves are in the garden, where they belong.

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6 Responses to “When Autumn Leaves Start to Fall”

  1. Susan says:

    I don’t understand getting rid of leaves either. It’s dumb to give up the free fertilizer and you know they’re going to replace that nutrition with chemicals.

    I collect them by the cubic yard off a quarter mile of driveway, haul them (wheelbarrow) to the mulch pile, and shred them. My mother is even worse–she scavenges up and down the street for bags being discarded.

  2. Noel says:

    Susan, Thanks for the comment. I get quite upset with the leaf burners, but I try to internalize it. It’s more the dense smoke drifting through the neighborhood that ticks me off. I’ve talked to a few of the folks who burn leaves and spray their lawns for weeds, trying to keep the conversation positive, but they mostly just don’t want to understand.

  3. Sumati says:

    I used to scavenge leaves too! Since we moved, I get plenty from my backyard neighbor, who rakes hers up and tosses them over the fence for me. I cover my beds with leaves and collect the rest for a big leaf mold pile which provides compost the following fall. Irene took down one of our big trees, so this year I may have to resort to scavenging them again. The neighbors think it’s pretty funny! When we moved 3 years ago there were hardly any worms in the soil, but after a few years of covering the beds with leaves, that’s changed a lot. The soil is much better!

  4. Noel says:

    Sumati. Thanks for the comment. The earthworms seem to love the leaf cover. I’ll often encounter a dozen or more worms in a single forkful of soil where I have pulled back the leaves.

  5. Anna Ballinger says:

    We pick up the bagged leaves from the curbs of MO. homes to use as bedding for our ducks and goats during the winter. When we clean the pens the soiled leaves are put in the garden. Works great for us.

  6. Noel says:

    Anna, thanks for the comment. Manure mixed with leaves for the garden. Great!