This week we posted several stories about trees — how to water them during the drought and news of new trees moving into Hancock Park, expanding our city’s urban tree canopy. Many of our local trees are deciduous which means they lose their leaves seasonally. Some can find this seasonal change a messy nuisance and feel it’s a good reason not to plant trees. It might be messy to us, but leaf litter, as it has been known in the trade, is not litter at all. It’s actually very beneficial to our gardens and trees. It’s a free by-product from our trees that are already cleaning our air and sequestering carbon to mitigate climate change!
“This organic material contains all the nutrients the garden needs,” explained Sabine Hoppner, arborist for the Hancock Park Homeowners Association. Rather than collecting the fallen leaves and tossing them into the green trash cans headed for the landfill, Hoppner integrates them into the planting beds and spread them around the garden.
“Leaf litter is an excellent type of mulch, that you already have in your garden!” Hoppner told us. “Packing it up, hauling it away to the landfill then buying mulch to replace it, is crazy and unsustainable!”
Leaf litter is also very good for insects and pollinators.
“Besides providing the right plants, and protecting your garden from pesticides, one of the next most valuable things you can do to support pollinators and other invertebrates is to provide them with the winter cover they need in the form of fall leaves and standing dead plant material,” according to the Xerces Society dedicated to protecting and preserving invertebrates.
Whole leaves are even better than chopped up or shredded leaves according to Xerces Society. Many gardeners like to shred leaves for use in compost piles. But as it turns out, shredded leaves are not as beneficial to insects as whole leaves, and by shredding them, we may be inadvertently destroying eggs, caterpillars, and chrysalis along with the leaves.
“We suggest that leaves in garden beds and lawn edges be left whole. Where space allows, consider creating a leaf pile and allowing it to break down naturally, or add the leaves gradually to your compost pile over time. Such efforts will keep critters safe and allow you to benefit from the rich garden gift that falls from the trees above,” posted the Xerces Society.
So there you have it, permission to be messy and leave the leaves!
P.S. And if you needed any other reasons, here’s two more. The leaves create a spectacular carpet and they make nice cozy beds for our pets.
About Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the co-editor and publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.
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One thought on “Leave the Leaves in Your Garden”
Patty – Thanks for publishing this. The article finally caused me to ask my gardner to “Leave the leaves!”