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Leaving the leaves there after they fall. Good idea or bad idea.

Large red maple tree in center of garden and all those leaves it drops in the fall. Been told to leave them there and let them compost over time. Mostly shrubs grow there but do have a lot of perennials too. Also it looks like hell to me. I enjoy that clean earth look. I also own a leaf blower, so what is holding me back? I need advice please.


  • FireFire Posts: 17,390
    It kind of depends what the leaves are falling onto and how you use the space. Leaving leaves on earth will insulate it a bit over winter and will mulch down to help feed the earth. It also gives shelter to critters over winter. You can pile the leaves in a corner for hedgehogs, moths etc. They also provide an ideal shelter for other critters like slugs and snails and creepy crawlies.

    If you don't use the garden much over the winter or don't see the space much but it seems awfully ugly to you maybe it doesn't matter much to leave the leaves where they are. Other options might be to collect up the leaves and make leaf mulch in bins.

    Being less tidy in the garden is certainly helpful to wildlife. It likes undisturbed wild spaces, piles and heaps and layers. I found I got a real explosion of slugs when I let things lay where they dropped. There is nothing to predate them, so I tidy up leaves more than I used to.
  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,968
    I do a bit of both.  I clean up the leaves on the gravel (previous owner) under the trees.. but leave it around the perennials and such for winter protection and wildlife.  Clean it up if you look at it often and it's bothersome.  Do you have space for making some leaf mold?  That way you can return the goodness to your garden, without having to look at it.
    Utah, USA.
  • It's your garden, but as blue onion says, compost them, maybe? Also, if you blow them into the road, your neighbours will think you're a dick 🙂
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 86,156
    If the trees are growing in a lawn you need to remove fallen leaves and compost them. Left where they fall they’ll damage the grass. 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • PosyPosy Posts: 3,601
    It's your garden, you can do what you prefer but it is true that fallen leaves will damage your lawn and among the perennials they will house slugs and snails. The organic matter is good for the soil so the best way is to collect up the leaves and compost them. If you can't be bothered, dispose of them with your other garden waste.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,011
    I'd agree - if they're large trees, with large foliage, and in grass, they won't do any good being left on the grass. Gather and use them to make leaf mould, which is a great addition for beds and borders. It takes a while to create it, but isn't difficult  to do. 
    The ones falling onto soil can also be a nuisance, rather than a benefit, if they're large maple leaves. Less of a problem around shrubs or trees, but they won't just break down readily, and can form too thick a layer for some plants [perennials mainly] to break through, and just harbour slugs and snails as others have said. 
    Smaller Acer foliage isn't too much of a problem because of it's size. I don't gather the ones from mine, for example, as they're from a dissectum variety, and smaller than many others like oak or beech leaves.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • DedekindDedekind Posts: 172
    How long do they take to decompose? As I would like them to feed the soil but at the same time I don't think I want a thick layer of oak leaves on the border for so long. I tend to leave everything as is (including leaves, dying perennials etc) during the winter, but in spring I tidy up.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,011
    Around a year is normal for leaves to break down, if you're using a purpose built container or putting them in bags. It depends on the type though, and your climate. They need to be kept moist.
    Some break down quicker than others. You can also shred them - even just with the lawnmower if you don't have a shredder, and they'll break down a bit quicker.  :)

    I don't have any suitable trees here in this garden, so I collected a load of beech leaves in autumn, from a neighbour round the corner, as they get loads from the NT garden just across the road due to the wind direction. I shredded one bucket load with the mower, and stuck them round the base of a rhodo.
    That wouldn't affect any planting coming through, although in my case, it's mainly snowdrops and crocus there.  
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • FireFire Posts: 17,390
    One other option is to mow over the leaves on a lawn to help them to break down faster and benefit the grass.
  • PosyPosy Posts: 3,601
    I collect leaves that fall on the garden. They include oak, chestnut, beech and willow. They go into a wire container where they take at least two years to turn into beautiful leaf mould. A lot of leaves are also mown and chopped up when the grass is cut. There is then a mix of leaf and grass. These go onto  a heap which I turn three or four times. In 6 - 9 months this makes excellent compost.
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