|The leaf of a sassafras tree/shrub; one of my favorite species. I just love the trident shaped leaves and while I do not like the taste of root beer, I love the smell of the crushed leaves which smell like root beer. Old folklore tells me that in the south people would crush the roots and make tea from the roots claiming that the tea would make them better able to deal with the heat and the humidity of the summers.|
Fall is definitively here. It always seems to hit hard in November (see my post from around this time last year). It is around Thanksgiving that I rake, blow or mulch for the last time. The roads in our neighborhood are beginning to be lined with clear bags with leaves that are going to be carted off to the county's composting facilities (I hope), and maybe next spring these same people will bring some of the leaves back in a different form to fertilize and mulch their yard; although I would not bet on it.
Many of these people mine their yards for nutrients. In one of the classes that I teach I surprise my student with the little factoid that fall leaves contain a lot of phosphorus and by us carting leaves of to the dump or to the composting facility we are really mining phosphorus and depleting our soil. This forces us to go buy fertilizer at our landscaping stores and put artificial fertilizer on our lawns and gardens which we basically cart off again next fall. The fertilizer companies (and the garden stores) love us, don't they?
Our neighborhood has them all, there is this one guy, I swear, he gets the blower out when he sees one leaf on his lawn or driveway (he's obviously OCD). My wife and I call him "Jack the Blower". He has the leaf blower going for at least two hours every Friday, Saturday and Sunday (we are not home the other days so we don't know if he blows those days as well); one wonders what else he does in life, or if he has a life. I feel sorry for his neighbors; who have told me that they actually caught him blowing leaves into their yard. When we lived in Cincinnati 20 years ago, we knew an equally OCD guy (an ex FBI agent) and when we walked by his property we made sure to bring a leaf and place one leaf on his lawn, just to tease him. Boy, we were mean in our younger years.
But leaves are important, as I mentioned, they recycle nutrients and organic matter, but they also are the home to a lot of insects and other critters. It is a lot of fun to see towhees and brown thrashers going after bugs in the leaves in my yard. They do it just like chickens scratching away in the leaves, throwing them all over.
But there is more, all the mushrooms that are out there are fed by the decaying leaves and rotting plant materials, salamanders lizards, frogs and a lot of other critters need them. The fallen leaves serve as natural litter that keep the weeds from growing; although, in some cases to much litter may be a bad thing as I complained about in an earlier post. There is too much litter in the woods behind our home, which in my eyes has suppressed the native weeds and forbs. The only way to remedy that would be with a controlled burn and good luck in getting that approved.
But again, it is important to mulch the leaves back into the lawn and back into the flower beds. The organic matter, nutrients, weed control, and habitat for our wildlife provided by those leaves is so valuable!