Should we pick up the leaves? - The360 Lifestyle

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  • Saturday, November 30, 2019

    Should we pick up the leaves?

    Should we pick up the leaves?

    Some recommend leaving leaves and other plant debris on the ground in the fall to enrich the soil or improve its texture while promoting the life of a host of organisms. If this practice has obvious virtues, it is however difficult to fully apply on our urban land. Explanations. 

    An essential litter

    In the wild, dead leaves accumulate on the ground each year and slowly decompose with other plant debris. They form the litter, the carpet of essential organic matter allowing the constant development of the plants and the animal life which revolves around, and that without external contributions. The situation is different in agriculture, for example, where we systematically collect what the soil has produced, which makes it necessary to resort to fertilizers to compensate for the progressive impoverishment of the environment. Dynamics also differs on our small turf fields. Dead leaves do not really belong here.

    The turf problem

    "Leaves and lawn do not usually get along well," says Claude GĂ©linas, consulting agrologist Varennes. Compressed by water, snow and ice, they will stifle the grass during the winter. It is better to eliminate them by composting them or by entrusting them to the municipality. For its part, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, an organization dedicated to the protection of sensitive habitats, believes that a mantle more or less equivalent to the thickness of two leaves on the turf can be beneficial. Unfortunately, because of the wind, the measurement becomes very random. Failing to remove them completely, the agronomist advises rather to shred them with the lawn mower absolutely avoiding that the grass disappears under the trimmings, under pain, again, to see him die. The shredded leaves will decompose more quickly, compost more easily and can also be integrated directly into the garden.

    Cleaning the flower beds

    If, from an ecological point of view, leaving the leaves on the ground in the garden or in the flower beds can be justified, the horticultural reality sometimes leads us to act otherwise. Some leaves are very fleshy and take a long time to decompose (maple leaves, oak, poplar, lilac, etc.). Not only does the thermal protection of the roots remain marginal to the snow cover, but they will slow down the spring thaw by several days where they will have accumulated. While plant debris promotes life, it is also an excellent shelter for undesirables such as field mice and the iris worm, or for certain pathogens causing powdery mildew (white), botrytis (gray rot), maple tarry spot, and many other diseases. The owners of rose bushes (tea hybrids) will even remove the leaves that persist on the branches of their plants. Many gardeners will also raze most of their perennials for this purpose, even large grasses, the favorite spot in winter for small rodents that love the bark of young trees.

    Fall or spring?

    There are also a number of factors that help to eliminate leaves and clear the ground in the fall, ideally in early November when all of them have fallen. The leaves and plants are still fleshy, easier to cut and pick up. The soil is drier and firmer, while in spring it often becomes soggy, otherwise muddy, making cleaning more delicate. You will then avoid crushing the fragile stems that begin to emerge under the plant debris. Large public gardens always clean before the first snow. Not only will your land and garden look good before you arrive and after the snow melts, but your spring flowers will be even more spectacular if the ground is clear.

    Spring tasks

    And if you still need to do a little extra cleaning of the flowerbeds in the spring, a tip: gently pass the leaf rake by installing on a plywood panel placed on the ground. Your weight will then spread over a large area, which will significantly reduce damage to emerging plants.

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