This may seem an odd topic for an arborist and blatant lover of trees. But when dealing with innumerable clients over the years as well as speaking to groups (who are not directly clients), you have to stay realistic. Some people are just simply not as enthralled with trees as we (arborists and lovers of trees) would like to think or take for granted.
The biggest issue we hear: “They’re so messy!” Well, I can’t really argue that but it is tempting to ask if they have any children and if there is any maintenance involved with cleanup. Since I am trying to keep avenues of discourse open, I bite my tongue there.
Yes, trees produce debris. That actually is a good thing. And important, even mandatory, in a healthy environment. (I will go into this a lot more in my blog(s) on soil organic matter and healthy soil – yet to come.) In a natural setting that debris is integral to supplying nutrients back to the soil and soil organisms and hence the trees themselves via the complex breakdown of the organic matter (what we are calling “debris”). We tend to want our areas a bit too tidy.
The complaints escalate come autumn when those glorious leaves that have been giving us wonderfully-appreciated shade all summer, and which we love to oooh and aaah over in their fabulous color displays, start to fall. And keep falling. In fact, they seem to multiply on their way down to the ground. A fact that has yet to be scientifically proven but anecdotal evidence suggests….
At that point, faced with a yard full of 2-foot-deep leaves, FAR more than you can mulch and use in your garden or flower beds, to say nothing of the whining of the designated rakee in the family, you are seriously contemplating cutting all offenders down. If you live in town, this problem is compounded by the fact that leaves have no respect for property lines. They not only fall over the fence from your neighbor’s trees but they BLOW IN from who knows where! If a tree identification was to be taken from your property by the leaves on site, you would assume you lived in an arboretum, an impressive one at that! Where in reality you may have one, maybe two, species actually situated on your place.
But you take comfort in the fact you will get them all raked up and that will be that for the season. Ok, except for the next wind that blows all those errant leaves from, apparently, the next state, ….and the fun resumes. Encouraging words like “it provides good exercise”, or “it’s called job security” (my personal favorite which so far, no one appreciates), or “it’s a wonderful family activity” (unless you have a dog and then they spend as much time scattering the piles as you do raking them; however, the dog is getting good exercise and a sense of bonding with the family, so there’s that) are little solace at this time.
And what on Earth do you do with all those sacks of leaves???? Well, many cities have places to dump them. In some areas they will magically disappear if left bagged on the curb. They actually are tremendously good for gardens, both vegetable and flower, as well as top dressing any other area involving soil.
When you do rake up your leaves, make sure you leave a substantial amount under the tree they fell from. If you don’t have a tree island under your tree…. well, we need to talk. There will be a blog about that coming up as well.