The gift of falling leaves

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LINDSEY APARICIO
  • Lindsey Aparicio
If I could, I'd have all of the leaves fall directly from the trees onto the barn floor each year ā€” they make good bedding for the goats. Or, maybe Iā€™d have them all just blow into my garden, to make sure that next year's soil is black and rich and full of earthworms!

Leaves are fall's way of giving us an annual gift of free mulch and exceptional compost. But for many, raking them has become a yearly, after-your-favorite-football-game weekend chore. Instead of things of beauty, trees get viewed as a nuisance just begging to be chopped down, so that you'll never have to rake again.

And in our manicured landscapes, trees are no longer dropping their fall leaves to become a protective blanket for the soil and its micro and macro organisms, beginning the yearly process of decomposition to feed the soil; they are dropping them only to be trucked off to improve the soil at the dump. If things other than plastic bags grew at the dump, I might be in support of the idea, but they don't. 

I get it: Depending on the amount of trees in your yard, raking leaves is a time-consuming, tiring process ā€” and especially frustrating when the wind is blowing. It's a chore I don't always look forward to, either, but if you're going to spend so much time and energy cleaning them up, why not keep the bags out of the dump and put the leaves to a good purpose in your own yard? 

Here are some suggestions to keep your leaves at home:

1. Rake them all directly into your perennial flowerbeds, and step on them so they'll bed down and have less risk of blowing away.

2. Leave them under the tree that dropped them. (Just like what happens in nature.)

3. Put them all right on top of your vegetable garden and step on them so they'll bed down (as in #1). Then, in the spring, mix them into your soil.

4. Pile them up in a back corner of your yard and cover them with branches so they'll stay there. In the spring, remove the branches and spread the broken-down leaves around your outdoor plants for mulch.

5. Find a neighbor who wants them.

6. Stuff a scarecrow with them.

7. Use them as bedding for your chicken's nest boxes and/or your goats!

And if you can't commit to keep all of your leaves this year, start small. Instead of sending 10 bags to the dump, send eight, and keep the other two bags to use in your yard. But, if you're ready to keep them all, go for it!

Your yard will love you forever.

Lindsey is a city girl turned urban farm girl. She and her family are the proud stewards of a few milking goats, a lot of working chickens, an organic garden and a budding orchard. Just around the corner is the city. But she, and her farm, are hidden by the rocks. Follow her on Twitter (@goatcheeselady) and FaceBook (The Goat Cheese Lady) or visit her website (thegoatcheeselady.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Lindsey at: thegoatcheeselady@gmail.com.

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