Fall Myths About Leaves

I was reading another blog the other day (I won’t post a link to it because my purpose it not to embarrass other people) and I came upon this piece of gardening “advice” about fall leaves: it went something like “don’t leave “thick” layers of leaves in the garden because you’ll kill things.”

To a very limited extent, that’s true. You don’t want to leave a thick layer of leaves on your lawn for fear of smothering your grass.

But when was the last time you saw anything in nature “killed” but a thick layer of leaves? Who’s out there in the woods chopping up the leaves, making sure that the layers don’t get too “thick” so that the understory plants don’t get killed?

To be sure, if you have a heavy layer of leaves in the garden, and you have heavy wet clay soil (like mine) and you don’t do something about that in the early spring (like get them off the crowns of the emerging perennials) you might invite disease.

But on the pathways or other “fallow” areas, they’re just fine. They won’t harm a thing. They can over-winter on your plants without a problem. I used to use them to mulch my roses (when I still had roses that were so much trouble that I needed to mulch them. I no longer have such fussy things anymore!). In that case, I would pile leaves up to a foot deep around the roses. Needless to say, I wasn’t “killing” anything.

How long have I been doing this? At least 20 years or so. But you don’t need to take it from me. Take a walk in the woods after all the leaves have fallen. You’ll see what I mean.

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2 thoughts on “Fall Myths About Leaves

  1. Oak leaves are fine. There are those that will freak out and tell you that “Ack! They’re too large! They have too many tannins! They’ll smother the plants!”

    There are so many “don’t” in gardening that it’s a wonder anything survives at all anywhere. Oak leaves are primarily what fall in my pond (along with @#$% pine needles, so all those that tell me I should “net” the pond are wasting their breath. The needles are so fine they go right through). The fish survive the murky water and the tannins and are just fine every spring–I ahve fish that are almost a decade old despite that and all my wildlife. It was those same oaks (as well as a few maples (again huge leaves, supposedly way too large for “mulching) that I would use to mulch those roses up to a foot deep before I got rid of the fussy little things.

    So by all means, “leave” the oak leaves.

    Karla

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