Fall is finally upon us. The hot days of Summer have come to a close leaving golden and brown leaves scattered across northern yards everywhere. The colors of the leaves are determined by the tree they fall from. A tree losing its leaves happens due to weather, length of night change, and the pigments in leaves. Carotenoid pigment produces yellow, orange, and brown whilst anthocyanins produce dark golden and purple-brown leaves. As for tree type, oaks typically turn red or brown and maples can be any color from scarlet to glowing yellow. Some colors are almost genetic amongst trees due to a mountainous maple turning scarlet at the same time a flatland oak does, despite much colder nights in higher elevations. Of course, weather is one of the biggest influences on tree leaves. Sunny days accompanied by chilly but not freezing nights produces some of the more spectacular colors.
Initially, leaves fall due to shorter sunlight periods along with shorter days that begin as the year moves toward Winter. As we set our clocks back mother nature is at work shedding the year’s leaves off to make way for new ones. But what are we to do with all these fallen leaves that cover our yard? Well, in nature fallen leaves decompose and this creates highly fertile soil for new growth. Theres no better compost than old leaves. And thats probably one of the best uses for fallen leaves, create your own compost. This can be accomplished by raking them up onto a tarp or wherever you wish to keep your decomposing leaves. Though its perfectly fine to leave them on the tarp and put them somewhere safe and ready for next year. Decomposing leaves are also full of good trace minerals that attract earthworms and beneficial microbes, which are essential for an organic garden, as these organisms make for naturally healthy soil.
Fallen leaves are an essential part of a lasagna garden, which is basically a low-maintenance garden with built-up organic matter in place to create rich soil that causes a plant to grow on their own. These layers can be composed of anything from seaweed to tea bags. But the leaves are the foundation of the soils natural nutrients. Fall leaves have been replenishing deciduous forests in this way throughout Earth’s history. Its one of the keep factors in other forest plants growth. It may also protect some plants as the days turn colder. You can use it for that purpose in your own yard. If you have a plant you must keep outside it would be a good idea to cover it will leaves before the snow hits. I’ve actually kept many a pot from cracking that way over Winter. Of course, you have to clean the pot or plant off good in the Springtime as the leaves probably contaminated it with infections that could kill the plant.
Then theres always the option of just mowing over the leaves which can be very beneficial to your grass come Springtime. It may even see new patches of grass growing or burnt grass looking renewed after receiving compost. Shredded leaves tend to be easier to break down then the ones not shredded so it would be helpful if you did this. Not everyone owns a shredder so you could mow over them, like I said above. As for the actually leaves themselves, well nothing beats preserving a leaf in a book or photo album. Its also a great way to create your own personal leaf identification (or tree) book. I actually did this three times in high school for my Landscape Management program and it was quite fun. Its also a great activity for the kids so they can get to know tree types and appreciate nature more.