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Rake 'Em Up or Let 'Em Lie?

Oh, the age-old love-hate relationship gardeners have with those falling leaves in the captivating days of autumn! We eagerly await the vibrant hues of the season, yet dread the impending chore of leaf cleanup. But, let me tell you, there's a lot more to this seasonal conundrum than meets the eye.


You see, leaves aren't just nature's confetti; they're a precious resource for our gardens. Think of them as nature's own nutrient-packed gift to our soil. When we let leaves gracefully rest on the ground, they return their rich nutrients to the earth, just as they should. Not only that, but they act as a cozy blanket, protecting the soil from the harsh winter chill. Beneath that leafy carpet, worms and bugs find sanctuary, and our feathered friends find a delightful buffet.


But it doesn't stop there. Leaves also play the role of a guardian, shielding our gardens from the clutches of winter weeds. It's a cycle of nature in action, building soil, preventing compaction, and defending against erosion. Nobody would dream of stripping leaves from a forest floor, yet we do it time and again in our gardens.

Now, when it comes to gardeners, I've noticed we tend to fall into two camps: the "Rake Them Uppers" and the "Let Them Liers."


If you're in the "rake-em-up" camp, you might be a neat Nellie like me who loves a pristine garden. But remember, by collecting all those leaves, you're taking away a natural way of replenishing your soil. So, it's on you to find alternative ways to nourish it, like bringing in compost to spread on your beds. Economically and ecologically, it doesn't quite add up, but for meticulously maintained gardens, it might be the way to go.


Now, if you're a "let-em-lie" gardener, you embrace the natural messiness of things. But, even in your laissez-faire approach, it's essential to organize your leaves, making sure they're not smothering your lawn or evergreen treasures. Leaves can form a cozy blanket as long as they don't smother any plants beneath them.

In my garden, I'm a bit of a herder. I let some leaves stay in their designated beds all winter long. If I do decide to clear them away in February, I take care not to harm any emerging bulbs or tender perennials. This not only opens up the soil to the air, but also gives it a dose of much-needed warm sunshine.


But in other beds where I plan to plant bulbs, I bid farewell to the leaves. Instead, I introduce organic fertilizers and compost at planting time. These make up for the lost nutrients I would receive from the leaves I've removed and ensuring my garden's health.


In the grand scheme of things, your approach to fall leaves should reflect your garden style. If you've got a meticulously manicured space, those leaves might need to go. However, in more relaxed and natural gardens, you can incorporate them into your landscape with open arms. Just keep in mind that leaves are a treasure trove of nutrients. If they must leave your garden, you'll need to compensate with additional fertilizers and compost – often made from those very leaves you've hauled away.


So, my fellow garden lovers, the choice is yours: to rake or not to rake? Either way, remember that those fall leaves hold the secret to a thriving garden, a true gift from nature's hand.

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