Barry Commoner’s 3rd Law of Ecology
is that Nature Knows Best.
When humans alter or try to improve natural systems, problems are likely. During the days of autumn, nature is preparing for winter by conserving chlorophyll and storing the green for use in the spring. Colorful leaves fall from branches and cover the ground.
In nature, this serves to:
~ Insulate roots from frigid temperatures
~ Conserve scarce moisture during winter
~ Add nutrients to the soil, as they eventually will decompose
~ Provide critical habitat for the many tiny components of our ecosystem (like caterpillars, etc., favorite food for birds all winter)
Walking in a natural area gives us a peek at how this can work without leaf blowers screaming at 7am, burning fossil fuels, hiring leaf wranglers, making piles of leaves that clog streets, and the significant investment of human time and expense. Even though leaves aren’t removed from the forest floor in the fall, plants still thrive in the spring. Consider a woodland walk to see for yourself.
Leave the Leaves
Please consider keeping your gifted leaves in place to do their job over winter. If you must manage them, place them around the base of woody plants and in gardens. Avoid wasting this valuable natural resource. Let’s consider our river and our neighbors with our battle of the leaves. There are many reasons to change our leaf management practices; check these out: https://davidsuzuki.org/queen-of-green/how-to-leave-the-leaves/ and https://www.treehugger.com/skip-rake-and-leave-leaves-healthier-greener-yard-4858786
Protect the Street Drains
If your community collects leaves by vacuuming, please keep them on the parkway until the night before the scheduled collection day. Leaves in the street can enter storm drains causing expensive (your tax money) clogged pipes and potentially adding a nutrient load to our Fox River. Leaves in and on the street’s storm drains are a water quality threat. As water flows through leaves, the leaves act like a tea bag, only their flavor is phosphorus. For some data on this visit: https://www.usgs.gov/news/removal-fallen-leaves-can-improve-urban-water-quality
Be Part of the System
To be a better friend, consider being part of the system this year. Just experiment with at least a small portion of property, and leave the leaves. Trust a well-designed natural system of decomposition. See what happens.