I love this time of the year. While growing up in North Texas fall always signaled the blessed relief from the oppressive summer heat and extended romps through the woods or fishing in the ponds that were finally starting to fill up again. Here in New England fall is glorious too and of course the trees put on a show too. The smell of fallen leaves wafted into my olfactory awareness for the first time this year a couple of weeks ago early one morning after a rain shower the previous night. I love that smell and the sounds the crisp brown leaves make when walking on them in the woods.
This natural cycle of deciduous trees losing there leaves gives us the perfect opportunity to learn from observing nature. In a woodland ecosystem of deciduous trees one can find some of the most luxurious, rich black soil to be found anywhere that is created as a result of the decomposition of the leaves, fallen trunks or branches, and decaying rootlets that die off naturally (as above so below). In a well balanced system the decomposition is handled by insects, worms, microorganisms, and fungi to name a few of the major players. To paraphrase David Attenborough, the renowned naturalist and documentary film maker, we owe so much to the life being lived in the undergrowth.
If we take that model of natural recycling into our home yards and gardens then we can create soil without using chemical inputs that ultimately harm the ecosystems around us. One approach is to spread the leaves out somewhat evenly on the ground and wet them down thoroughly to prevent them blowing away. Like in the film Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will come”. All of those leaves will attract earthworms to the buffet who will then take care of aerating and fertilizing your the lawn for free. No Chem-Lawn service needed! Next spring the lawn area of your yard will look great and you’ll have a great start on that vegetable garden!
Alternately, the leaves can be piled up in a corner somewhere (preferably close to your garden for easy access later) and then covered up until spring. Left to their own devices the pile will break down into rich humus of its own accord with no further action from you. Easy peasy.