We encourage you to take a break from the all consuming annual ritual of fall clean up and enjoy the ecological benefits of the Not So Perfect Yard when you Leave Your Leaves.
We love autumn. Not yet, but soon, the neighborhood trees will blanket the ground with their last gift of the growing season. Their seasonal leaf drop can recharge your landscape and create habitat for wildlife if you let it. We encourage you not to treat your leaf litter as trash, but rather as the gift that it truly is to the millions of tiny creatures that are a part of the life of our gardens.
The Benefits of Leaf Litter
Raking up and disposing of our leaves, chopping down dead flower stalks and grasses all contribute to a manicured appearance which we have been conditioned to think of as the norm. However, in nature, trees don’t drop their bounty at the curb for pick up, but rather they blanket the earth while providing a host of ecological benefits.
Leaves provide an insulating winter cover in the garden for plants and those tiny creatures that sustain life in the garden. We encourage you to mulch with fallen leaves. Wherever possible, leave them to decompose where they fall in your garden beds. Or settle the leaves under the branches of your shrubs. Give it a year or so and your leaf litter will have broken down while providing mulch and increasing the soil’s water retention abilities.
Keeping your leaves on site provides additional benefits that help to create a healthy yard. They help retain soil moisture, reducing the need for watering in dry spells and reducing runoff. They feed the soil, increasing the biological activity of fungus earthworms, microbes and beneficial soil organisms. They also lighten clay soils and give fluff to sandy soils. They return much-needed nutrients to lawn, landscape beds and/or wooded areas, allowing you to dispense with the application of chemical fertilizes.
While you might think that this leaves the yard looking a little less than perfect, you are nourishing the landscape and providing valuable resources and habitat for wildlife.
In order to comply with NJ DEP regulations regarding storm water management, in April, Ewing Township Council enacted Ordinance 21-08, which mandates that leaves and other yard debris (including grass) must be bagged in biodegradable paper bags for pickup by the Township. (As an alternative, containers may also be used.)
Aside from the benefits of a healthier yard, there are numerous other benefits, including less hazardous roadways, because fewer leaf piles spill over onto neighborhood sidewalks and roads, and protection of the water quality of our streams, lakes, and rivers by keeping decomposing leaves out of storm sewers.
Recommended Options for Leaf Management
Option 1 – Leave your leaves. Blow them to the back of your beds where you can leave them to decompose over time providing habitat for the little critters that will become next year’s butterflies, moths… Or, leave them alone in a back corner of your yard or wooded areas to decompose naturally. Compost them in a pile or container.
Option 2 – Shred your leaves with a mulching mower and leave them in place on your lawn. Or, shred them with a mulching mower and use them as mulch in your borders and flowerbeds.
Want to Learn More?
Join the Ewing Green Team for a morning and afternoon Demo and Q&A session on Saturday, November 6th. Come mingle with your neighbors and get your questions answered about this easy, common sense practice. We will start each session indoors and move outside to the demo (weather permitting). (Masks are required for the indoor part of the sessions.)
Date: Saturday, Nov 6th
Time: Morning session 10 -11 am / Afternoon session 3 – 4 pm
Location: Nutrition Center at Hollowbrook Community Center, 320 Hollowbrook Dr., Ewing, NJ