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Special Topics

Leaves Aren't Trash

Leave'm Where They Fall

Leaves on the forest floor gradually decay, returning valuable nutrients and organic matter to the soil.I occasionally walk and run the roads and trails in many of our beautiful city, county and state parks. Not once have I ever seen an elf raking leaves up off the forest floor! Hopefully, you havenít either?

My thinking is that if nature prefers that leaves piling up over the roots of trees, shrubs and perennials in the forest, maybe itís not such a bad thing in our yards, either?

The lawn under these maple trees had never grown well because of the dense shade cast by the trees. So, what grass was growing was killed in preparation for the installation of dry shade-tolerant perennials.Now, before you start rolling your eyes, let me explain again that the lawn directly under many shade trees will never grow vigorously because of a lack of light and water. So, instead of fighting that reality, why not replace the lawn with dry shade-tolerant perennials and spring-flowering bulbs (at left and below)? Then, instead of spending hours raking leaves, just leave them alone! Oh, and don't worry, the leaves won't smother the perennials.

Planted with liriope, hostas, epimedium and other dry shade-tolerant perennials.In the spring, you can run a mower over the bed to shred the leaves and cut back the perennials, then cover the bed with an inch or two of fresh mulch if desired. As the leaves decompose under the mulch theyíll return nutrients and organic matter to the soil, just like on the forest floor!

You can learn more about the project where I employed this strategy by clicking here.