Cleaning fallen leaves - pros and cons
In late autumn, a large number of publications appear on online publications and social networks on what to do with fallen leaves. At the same time, there is a clear division into two disputing camps. Some argue why fallen leaves must be removed from the garden. Their opponents insist on their own: to remove leaves from the garden - go against nature! And after all, by and large, the arguments of both of them are correct. The reader has a natural question, who is right, whom to listen to?
In my article I will try to clarify this issue, or, conversely, let the fog in ... The first and most important thing to understand is that in your garden you and only you make decisions, regardless of what bloggers and experts advise you. Your garden is your area of risk and responsibility.
Leaf fall is beautiful, but ...
Indeed, the moment of leaf fall is one of the most beautiful and beloved by us seasons. No wonder in the fall, many go to the forest or to the park. Walking along the leaves on the paths and holding hands, you can make beautiful romantic selfies. And we gardeners do not need to go anywhere. As the saying goes, you just have to open the door and “selfie” to yourself as much as you want ...
But here's a bad luck, after a short period of time these red, yellow, green leaves turn into a brown, brown, caked mass of a completely unattractive appearance.
Therefore, if you decide to clean the leaves, it is better to do this while they are dry and light.
Is fallen leaves a fertilizer?
You can argue for a long time about the rich content of useful substances in fallen leaves. I am a supporter of the fact that they are there, but in small numbers. But no one will argue with the fact that fallen leaves, rotting over the winter, become part of the top layer of the soil and at the same time significantly improve its structure, making it loose, moisture and breathable.
Again, worms and other underground inhabitants use fallen leaves as food, giving back the very biohumus, and this is already an excellent fertilizer.
Fallen foliage insulates the roots of plants, but how?
Fallen foliage for the winter serves as a kind of blanket that saves the roots of our plants from winter frosts. Everything is so, but on condition that it is a dry and “fluffy” layer. And where is this seen in winter? Usually the foliage manages to get wet and caking in a thin layer before the onset of cold weather and there is little use for it as a heater.
But if you collect dry leaves and sprinkle them on your bushes, the same roses, and throw a piece of polyethylene on top (not airtight), that’s another matter. Under such a “roof,” the leaves will not get wet and do not clump until spring and will keep the earth warm around your seedlings.
Wintering place for diseases and pests
This idea probably comes to the mind of every gardener, and is also massively heated in printed and other garden-related materials. And speculatively the way it is. In practice, this is not so at all.
Here my neighbor literally scrapes the ground under his trees to a smooth state. It’s not like leaves, it’s just bare land all year round. So what? All the same, he walks with the sprayer all season. Because it does not know or does not accept one simple truth - powdery mildew and phytophthora spores do not winter in leaves, but in the ground. Not in the fallen leaves of the aphid hides from frost, but on the branches. Spores of rust do not winter under a pear, but on junipers, etc. etc.
Foliage cleaning does not work as a means of combating the diseases and pests of our gardens. Again - where to clean? Will we dig deep "graves" for spores and oviposition? Or burn those same bonfires, killing both themselves and their neighbors along with pests?
Well, if you clean, then wisely: we fall asleep the garden for the next season, fill greenhouses and high beds, add to the compost, but you never know where it can be used to good effect ...
By the way, by a strange coincidence, it is under a layer of fallen leaves that ladybugs winter and, probably, other insects useful to us.
Compress killing plants
And this, perhaps, is so. Uncleaned leaves before the winter with a 100% probability will lead to the formation of spring bald spots or white spots - “snow mold”. As a result, you will have to “repair” them: to sow and treat with fungicides.
Moreover, not only the lawn is at risk, but all evergreen ground cover plants: awl-shaped phlox, tenacious, shaved, etc. After all, a layer of wet and packed leaves does not let air through and retains moisture - the plant begins to rot.
And here, perhaps, it is worth stopping and making your decision whether to remove leaves or not to remove, and if to remove, then where?
A bit of my experience
Be sure to clean the lawn and ground cover, they do not belong there. Be sure to remove from the tracks - the leaves get wet, caking and become slippery, and even more so with the first frosts. I leave the leaves under the trees and shrubs, but I do not dig, as many advise, but sprinkle a little compost or just ground. So their wind does not blow, and it is easier for our underground friends to recycle them.
Perhaps you should consider such a factor as the style of the garden. My garden is made in the "natural" style and the fallen leaves look organic in it, except for the purely functional moments that I wrote about. If your garden is “designer” and the leaves in it look alien, then of course, you should completely remove them, otherwise the garden will look groomed.
By the way, for many, even in an ordinary rural garden, this factor is the most important - “groomed”, “lazy person”, “what the neighbors say”, etc.
In a word, weigh the “FOR” and “AGAINST” harvesting of fallen leaves and make the right decisions based on your specific conditions.