Today I am mourning the loss of a very old silver maple that used to tower over my driveway. It's been falling apart, piece by piece, for years now, but the last storm brought down branches large enough to tell us it was time to say good-bye. The final thud of the fallen trunk is a resoundingly sad sound.
I'm especially upset that I didn't even get one last fall dump of leaves, to use in my garden. There are so many uses for fall leaves and some don't even require the effort of raking them. I am dumbfounded by people who rake their leaves to the curb for pick up and then pay good money for fertilizer in the spring. Several studies have shown that simply mowing over them when you mow your lawn will improve the health and thickness of your grass. If you have a bagger, you can mow and collect them, to use as mulch in your garden beds. Slightly damp leaves chop easier and will remain in place better.
If you have so many leaves that mowing is not a great option, you can rake them up and add them to your compost. Or even better, pile them up by themselves and let them turn into leave mold. It only takes about a year to get the crumbliest, earthiest smelling soil conditioner you've ever seen. Our Guide to Organic Gardening, Colleen Vanderlinden, can get you started on making and using leaf mold.
Photo: © Marie Iannotti