Take It or Leave It

casey_p_rolandAAAHHH… The steady din of leaf blowers throughout town this time of year… Hmmmmm, I thought. What to do with all these leaves? What if we left them? After all, they are called leaves, not takes, right? A leaf rake should be called a take rake, no? I spend most of my “autumn” raking leaves back onto the root zone, leaving them to do what they are meant to do.

Leaves are shed on purpose, whether they hang in there for a season (deciduous), or a couple (evergreen) only to swirl gently downward, covering the soil under the canopy to provide what I like to think of as “parental” mulch.

Ask any nurseryman, arborist, forester, botanist, etc. They will, or should, say, “Put away the take rake”, or, at least, use it to put the leaves back where they belong, on the root zone.

The slimy, molding, decomposing, goo that “left” leaves create, has kept trees strumming along for millions of years…

Needles from Pines, Spruces, Firs, etc. are nothing more than modified leaves, so the same applies to them as well.

The best mulch for any given plant is what they produce themselves, kinda’ like a perpetual motion machine. The forests that surround us are the working models that, well, work!

If you have a turf grass lawn under your tree, you may consider incrementally “bumping” back the lawn to provide for the area where leaves NEED to accumulate. Ideally, this would be at least 1 1/2 times canopy, but some people really love their lawns, so we can agree on a little wiggle room on this. Grass generally grows poorly under trees, and native trees in our region have evolved through dry summers, sooooo…

The best mulch is, believe it or not, shredded $100.00 dollar bills! There is something about the ink the Federal Reserve uses in 100’s that is elementally better for trees than 20’s or 50’s. Or… You can just leave the leaves that your tree drops for free…

(Special thanks to Dave Hagert, for the inspiration on this month’s article)