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The bad leaf advice—it’s baaack!

The bad leaf advice—it’s baaack!

My leaves are not as pretty as this.

It’s that time of year again—gardeners are getting silly advice from the Wildlife Federation and other nature-centric organizations about why they should try to leave their leaves in place to provide wildlife habitat and “natural mulch.” Many gardening columnists and Facebookers are picking up the NWF’s 2014 “Leave the Leaves for Wildlife” post and running with it—again. I won’t go into the reasons this is mainly BS for most gardeners, as Susan has already done a fine job with that in this post. (Suffice it to say she calls this “terrible, no-good gardening advice” and proceeds from there.)

I am among the many gardeners who do not live in natural forest environments. I have a winding, urban garden surrounded by (mainly) big maples that dump big, fat mats of never-decomposing leaves all over my property in late November. These must be removed; they smother plants and soil and won’t be any easier to get rid of in spring. So I bag them up and leave most for the city to collect for municipal compost. (There are way too many for me to compost and I’d have to shred them with machinery I do not own or want to own.) However, I do hold back a few bags. I’ve found that the big bags of leaves can be placed around vulnerable shrubs—mainly fall-budding hydrangeas—as wind protection. I think it works better than burlap or Shrub Coats—which are good products, but I often end up breaking half the branches off in the process of pulling them over the plant.

The argument has been made that municipalities spend too much money on the trucking, labor, etc. involved in a composting operation, but if they’re doing it, my leaves may as well be a part of it. I also have a friend who maintains his own bulk composting operation, and I can always bring my leaves there.

Anyway, most of my trees are planted in the city-owned easeway, so the city can have them.

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on November 15, 2016 at 9:50 am, in the category Gardening on the Planet, Shut Up and Dig.

One Comment

    • Laura Munoz
    • 15th November 2016

    To each his own. I’m making use of my pecan and oak leaves and those from my neighbor. While some disagree, I do think leaves can be used effectively in the garden as mulch, in compost, and as a top dressing to add nutrients to and keep moisture in bare soil.

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