There’s no escaping it. Leaves must be dealt with some way or another this time of year. We’ve enjoyed them for eight months now, but after they are off the trees, it’s just another worry.
I’ve quoted him several times before, but the late, great British garden writer Christopher Lloyd said it just about the most poetic way I ever heard: “Leaves,” he declared, “are the undertow of our November lives.”
He was right, and if you’re a lazy gardener, he could add for you even December and some of January.
It is far better to deal with them, however, sooner rather than later, before they have a chance to be blown thither and yon and smother good lawn grass.
Left to their own devices, they are perfectly capable of doing just that. Gather thy leaves while ye may.
This is not another discourse on composting. You can find numerous sources for that, including Google.
Suffice it to say, the easiest way to make them into compost is just rake them into a pile in some out-of-the-way place and let nature takes its course.
The leaves will rot down into leafmold in a year or so and, if left alone for further time, they will make into good compost a year or so later.
It will not be as rich as compost concocted with so much brown stuff, so much green stuff and an accelerator to speed things up.
It is a pity to see leaves raked and sometimes bagged at the curb to be taken to the landfill. There, they take up valuable space, which is ever dwindling, that could be used for other things.
It would be better to throw them into a gully than use precious landfill space.
Back in the day, it was common practice in the autumn to find the air choked with acrid smoke from numerous fires as folks burned their fallen leaves.
That was even more notorious, but nobody thought anything about it. If you do that now, be sure to get a free permit from the fire department.
Mulching mowers are a godsend for large lawn areas with numerous trees. They grind the leaves into pieces so small they simply sift down into the grass and do not smother it.
The important thing, however, is to do the leaf mulching at regular intervals, before the leaf load grows to such proportions as to choke down the mower as they build up under the mower deck faster than the blades can handle them.
Sometimes, too, leaves and other debris such as sticks and stalks of weeds will flow up over the deck and jam the mower belt into one of the pulleys.
This either chokes down the engine or breaks the belt. The belts are ridiculously expensive.
And, by the way, not all leaves are down even at this late date. A few deciduous trees don’t release them until well into December.
Anyhow, Thanksgiving Day was last week and we gardeners have much to be thankful for, including leaves, turkey and sweet tater pie.
Have you ever wondered how black walnut trees get so prolific?
They are more noticed after leaf fall and when the nuts lie about like so much machine gun ammo to be flung at supersonic speed from beneath the deck of a power mower.
They can kill anyone who gets in the way.
People are too lazy nowadays to pick them up, scrape off the outer husk and take a sledge hammer to get to the precious meat. The shells are as hard as rocks.
How in the world does the potential little sprout that comes from the nut force its way through such a housing?
Then, after it germinates and breaks through the shell, how does it know to send the root down and the embryonic “tree” up.
Like a lot of nature, it is a miracle.
JIMMY WILLIAMS is the garden writer for The Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Mondays at 642-1162.