It’s Fall! Time for cool mornings and pumpkin spice everything. And, while nothing says fall like fallen leaves, sometimes they can feel like a bombardment. If you’re thinking there’s got to be a better way to deal with those leaves than hauling bag after bag to the curb, you’re right. Here are three things to consider as you tackle the autumnal abundance.
Rake Into Beds
The best place for leaves is right on the ground – raked under your trees and shrubs or mowed into the lawn. This returns nutrients back to the soil and provides shelter to caterpillars and other overwintering insects. Come spring these insects will get to work as natural pest control in the garden, and they in turn will feed new clutches of baby birds. This native mulch also suppresses weeds and holds in soil moisture. A great return for “leaving the leaves”.
If all your landscape beds have a 3-4″ layer and you still have leaves here are some good options:
- Start or feed a compost pile
- Heap up 6-8″ in a corner along with branches and hollow stems for a simple insect hotel
- Stockpile to put around tender shrubs as insulation over the winter
If you regularly contend with a lot of leaves, consider vacuuming instead of blowing. Units that vacuum and shred leaves as you go really help reduce the volume and small pieces break down faster into rich compost wherever they end up.
Out of Drains & Gutters
One place leaves don’t belong is in the stormwater system. Don’t blow leaves into the drain, it’s illegal! Stormwater flows, untreated, into local waterways and all that extra debris depletes oxygen, reducing water quality for fish, dragonfly naiads and a host of other aquatic organisms.
After a rain, check for needles, sticks and other debris that may be lodged in driveway culverts and drain inlets near your house. Keeping the stormwater system clear reduces flooding. It also prevents formation of small, stagnant puddles ripe for mosquito breeding.
Fall is a great time to check those gutters, too. Pay special attention to sections under trees as well as roof valleys (where two sections of roof join). As these areas fill with debris, you risk damage to the roof and you create more ideal mosquito breeding sites, right at your doorstep.
Fun with Leaves
Albert Camus wrote “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” There are 168 words to describe leaf shape, arrangement, venation, and edges; take some time to delight in the variety. Have a leaf scavenger hunt or make a leaf print bookmark. Learn the language of leaves.
Leaf Print Bookmark
- Collect leaves from the neighborhood that have interesting shapes or vein patterns
- Use a roller or brush to apply paint to the underside of a leaf. Do it sparingly so that the texture appears
- Place painted side down on a heavy sheet of paper or cardstock
- Cover with a scrap piece of paper and use a rolling pin or straight-sided can to press the leaf down evenly
- Remove the scrap paper and peel the leaf back gently from the stem end
- Let the print dry and embellish with doodles, stickers, glitter or stamps
- Punch a hole at one end and loop through a piece of ribbon or yard to complete the bookmark
Other ways to use the leaf print technique:
- Decorate brown kraft paper for a tablecloth or placemats
- Stamp over newsprint for recycled wrapping paper
Check out the Texas A&M Forest service for help identifying native trees