Remarkable things about leaves. They are:
Falling leaves mark the end of Autumn and the beginning of Winter. We may see this time of year as the end of the growing season, the loss of color, or the onset of pure cold. What if we looked at it as the beginning of coziness?
Fallen leaves provide a permeable blanket. A layer to protect the soil from temperature swings all while allowing rain and snow to melt between the layers. Our most recent wild artic blast brought temperatures down to -11, and then they popped up to the 40s. A layer of leaves provide protection for plants’ roots and stems. You can see how these Johnny Jump Ups still are green and have flowers. The negative temps and snow made little difference. When temps got above freezing, they were fine to thrive.
It is hard to believe that leaves can provide enough cover to really make a difference, but look at this dandelion! It is trying to bloom with just a few days over 32 degrees. Think of it as you would think of insulation for your home. Sure, it is cold out, but the insulation keeps the air in your home manageable to heat by retaining heat.
As well as a blanket, the decay of the leaves delivers nutrients to the soil. The leaf mold enhances soil texture for roots to expand. This layer of decaying matter mulches and retains water from evaporation. It also smells fantastic.
No longer do we need to look at a yard of leaves as a daunting task to clean. Sure, make some piles for the dogs to run through, but leave those leaves. Countless bugs and seeds are mixed into the litter. Larger piles you gather from sidewalks or driveways can be used in containers or to start new beds come early Spring.
I am performing a small experiment with the leaves we have. We are undergoing some construction. I placed leaves over the ground the workers are driving and working on. My hopes is that I have saved some of the roots from being torn up and completely compacted into the soil. We shall see once Spring comes whether it has helped.
If we take the time to listen and observe our Mother Nature, we can become wise to her ways, and thus have healthier gardens.