Each fall Baltimore residents have an opportunity to do something great for our waterways, our soils, and our wildlife. Resist the urge to bag up the leaves from your yard, sidewalk, or roadway.
Leaves from the trees provide natural fertility to your turf grass, offer crucial shelter for overwintering wildlife, and are a free source of mulch for your garden beds. We recommend the following three strategies for dealing with leaves on your property.
Leaves That Fall on Garden Beds
- Leave these alone. They will decompose naturally, providing nutrients and organic matter back to your soil. The thick cover will discourage annual weeds next spring, not only saving you the cost of mulch, but also allowing your established native perennials and shrubs to grow right through them. Plus, many insects including caterpillars spend the winter in the shelter of these leaves.
Leaves That Fall on Lawns
- Use your mulching lawnmower to shred these and leave them in place. The chopping action of the lawnmower blade will produce small pieces that will break down quickly without suffocating the grass, yet still provide nitrogen to your yard.
Leaves That Fall on Walkways or Driveways
- Here, use your mulching lawnmower with a bagging attachment. This strategy will simultaneously clean up your sidewalk, increasing safety on rainy days, while giving you a little extra mulch or compost for spreading under trees, shrubs, or on dormant vegetable beds. Plus, an electric or battery-powered lawnmower is a lot less polluting than a leaf blower. Bonus: collect leaves in the same way from streets and alleys to reduce nutrient loads in our streams.
If you have an urban property with no garden beds, we encourage you to look for a community garden that can use your leaves instead of having the city or county collect them.
One of the key tenets of gardening for wildlife is that you can often do more by doing less. So, put down the rake and let your leaf blower gather dust in the basement.