In defense of leaves: A plea to urban gardeners

Posted on: December 13, 2019 | Written By: Friends of EG | Comments


Everybody Gardens reader Kathy Short has lived in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Squirrel Hill for almost 50 years. She and her husband have a large urban organic garden in which they grow all their own vegetables and nurture hundreds of orchids. She recently penned an interesting post on Facebook, and it’s published below, with her permission.

A plea to urban gardeners who love Mother Earth:

Trees and plants have shed leaves and needles for millions of years. They fall down right under the tree as a natural fertilizer and mulch, replenishing the energy and protecting the trees, the beneficial insects, the healthy soil, the millions of little critters who live under them. Trees, by the way, should NEVER be volcano mulched, as the air holes at the bottom of the trunk are thus suffocated and bring on disease and ultimately a slow death (but that is another rant.)

When did lawns need to look like a living room rug? And when did bare, scorched earth soil become attractive? The gasoline-powered, noise-polluting, ugly leafblowers used by so many are actually destroying beneficial life just below the surface of the soil. Pollinating ground bees are killed; firefly eggs just under the leaves are annihilated; the tiny microbes that keep the soil healthy for plants are destroyed; and good seeds are killed making way for invasive weeds and bad bugs that flourish in sick soil.

Leaves that are a natural and a beautiful mulch are then stuffed into bags to become landfill. They can be run over with a mower on lawns and left on the grass all winter to naturally protect bushes and trees and then, if not rotted naturally by springtime, rake them up then and run over with a mower (ask your gardening service to do that if you don’t do it yourself), to make another good fertilizer and to feed the lawn. It’s better than throwing cancer-causing Round-up used for weeds that flourish in disturbed earth: the run-off pollutes our water and land and makes animals and children ill. Let the dandelions and violets and odd grasses flourishes. (Oops, that is another rant.)

Mulch sold at big box stores and dyed horrible unnatural colors is actually nasty pallets that are ground up, full of toxins, then piled around trees and and thrown around flowerbeds and bushes. Or the gardener brings in stuff that may or may not be healthy.

Anyway, after taking a neighborhood walk and listening to at least 10 obnoxious leaf-blowers doing their damage and seeing ugly, bare soil in front of so many lovely homes, I decided to make a plea for next year that we all try to remember that Mother Earth knows best … please LEAVE the LEAVES, at least under your trees and bushes.

PS We collected at least 30 bags of leaves again this year, raked up by neighbors from their sidewalks and curbs; handfuls will be used all winter mixed in the compost bins and used next spring to mulch the flowers, bushes and vegetable beds. We could have collected hundreds but that was not feasible.

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