The days are getting shorter and the trees are sporting their bright autumn colours! These show-stopping hues bring on fallen leaves, as well as the question: Should you leave the leaves or should you bag them up?

Each fall we encounter various articles that suggest we should leave the fallen leaves as they lie. It is true, leaving fallen leaves to decompose does bring valuable nutrients to the soil, provides a habitat for lots of valuable insect species over the winter months, and acts as a natural mulch. This advice, though well placed in it’s intentions, is not very clear in instruction or what it may do TO your lawn.

Fallen leaves that overwinter on your lawn can create big issues come spring; layers of leaves block sunlight and trap excess moisture against the lawn, resulting in bare patches come spring. The leaves can also cause fungus growth underneath if they aren’t moved quick enough in late winter/early spring. The only way to leave the leaves on your lawn is to chop them finely by mulching with a lawn mower or a leaf shredder then return them to the lawn.

It is also a good idea to keep your fall and winter interest plants – pansies or mums or grasses- free from layers of leaves for the same reason. A thick layer can block the sun and risk disease in wet weather. It is good to note: if you can’t see the plants underneath, the leaves are probably going to cause a problem.

Lovely shade garden with a nice covering of fallen leaves.

But don’t despair! There are some great places to leave the leaves! You can leave them in wooded, shaded areas, on mulched areas, under shrubs and around perennials (check to ensure your varieties like mulch!) but not lain too thickly (3 to 4 inches thick, at most) and do not crowd the stems and trunks. Compost piles are a great recipient of autumn leaves, as are now-empty veggie patches. Spread a layer over the surface of your vegetable beds and in the spring, work the leaves into the soil before planting. Leaf matter can make wonderful compost and mulch for the spring and summer months.

Removing leaves from your yard & gardens is mainly an aesthetic choice -many people prefer the tidy look of of a leaf-free lawn or the traditional mulches for their gardens. But leaving leaves in your garden beds and mulching over top of them in spring is not only beneficial, it is an ecologically safe option.

Stop by your local Ritchie’s for more advice as well as garden and lawn products for fall maintenance.

Curly Kale growing through leaf mulch.
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