How long we get to enjoy this spectacle is down to the weather, the only certainty is the leaves won’t stay on the trees for too much longer – after all, that’s why the Americans call it Fall.
And when they do drop, there are three good reasons for the gardener to deal with them.
1. Your grass will suffer if a thick bed of leaves is allowed to smother it, while paths and steps can become a slip hazard. Leaves left lying over and around plants will encourage snails and slugs, although on bare soil they can be left to rot and worms will also deal with them.
Keep leaves out of ponds as their decomposition can cause contamination issues.
2. Brushing and raking them up will not only keep your garden tidy, it’ll also give you a good workout. It’ll strengthen muscles, burn roughly 350 calories an hour, and you don’t need to wear lycra. Long-handled leaf grabbers, among other tools, can make the job easier.
3. Leaves can enhance your plant growing. After typically 12-18 months of decomposition, you’ll have nutrient-packed organic matter called leafmould.
Making leafmould couldn’t be simpler. Just put the leaves in a black plastic bag with some holes in, tie it up and then leave it behind a shed or somewhere inconspicuous to let nature do its thing.
Alternatively, you can make a square leaf bin with four stakes and chicken wire. Knock the stakes into the ground, attach the wire to the posts to form a bin and then fill with leaves. Turning the leaves occasionally to let air get to them and keeping them damp will aid the breakdown process.
All leaves can create leafmould but some decompose quicker than others. Horse chestnut and sycamore, for example, will break down faster if they are chopped up.
Leafmould makes a great mulch, seed compost or soil improver to dig into your beds and borders.
Whatever way you use it, a little bit of leaf work in autumn will reward you richly next spring and summer.