As we move through the fall season, an expert from the University of Illinois is now offering tips for handling the foliage before the arrival of winter. University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Richard Hentschel notes that with the next good freeze, leaves are bound to fall.
“If you are out in the country with natural woodlands, leaves play a part in preserving the natural habitat of native trees, shrubs, and flowers,” Hentschel says. “If that is the case, just let those leaves lie.”
When the leaves decompose, they will likely leave behind nutrients that are beneficial to the soil. Soil microbes utilize these nutrients to support future plant growth, according to Hentschel.
If you are dealing with leaves in a more suburban environment, you may want to consider mulching them. Hentschel says that this can easily be done with a mower, and it will allow small pieces to fall in between grass blades. Similarly, this can benefit the soil, trees and the lawn.
Eventually, there will be an excess of leaves that cannot be mulched. In these instances, Hentschel says it’s critical to mow and bag leaves to prevent them from smothering the lawn.
“Where the vegetable garden is adjacent to the lawn, consider either mowing or blowing the leaves into the beds to be worked in either this fall or left as a mulch layer for the soil and worked into the soil next spring,” Hentschel says.
By taking care of leaves during the fall, homeowners can prepare their yards for the upcoming spring.