The calendar proclaims that winter is approaching. However, here in California, the weather still whispers autumn. The season of autumn, also known as fall, is synonymous with the vision of trees dropping their summer foliage. It’s during autumn that the leaves are abundant.
The Sisters, as we lovingly refer to them, are four poplar trees that grace our front yard. They have been dropping leaves for some time now. Their younger brother, in the backyard, has kept up his share of decorating the landscape. While some of the leaves are picked up, the majority are left as they serve their own purpose. The fairy garden is covered in leaves, however, the fairies are still here. Once in a while, a tiny giggle is heard while the leaves are rustling even though the air is still. The blue jay that visits my garden seems to know where they are hiding. He gifts them with treats that I leave out for the birds in winter.
After the joy of piling up the leaves and leaping into them has passed, we tidy up a bit. By now the children have had their fill of creating and connecting with the leaves. Some are composted and the resulting leaves are left to find a spot to aid in wintering the garden. I have always viewed the leaves as a blanket for the garden. They flit and float and congregate in random corners of the garden. They provide shelter for the unseen critters that seek refuge from the approaching wintry weather. The leaves cover the remaining plants and, like an incubator, shield the resting seeds. And later on, as the leaves decompose, they return much-needed nutrients back to the soil.
It’s a lovely cycle- one often witnessed only by the woodland creatures.
As the season changes and welcomes spring, the remaining leaves are pulled back like a down comforter. We find the seeds are gently stirring from their long slumber. Some of the plants that have remained throughout winter breathe a sigh as they take in the warm sun. Their stems are yellowish-white- an indication they are craving nourishment from the sun.
The garden nourishes our mind, body, and soul. Replenish and regenerate with this simple, yet beautiful, form of healing. Nurture the Earth and her creatures as she nurtures us.
A few points to keep in mind when leaving the leaves:
- Mowing the leaves or using a leaf shredder chops the leaves into small pieces and aides in even distribution throughout the landscape. Make sure to leave enough whole leaves in piles for potential hibernating critters.
- For lawns, it is best to mulch the leaves if they are abundant. A thick layer left on a lawn will essentially suffocate the grass.
- Leaves provide nourishment to the soil, help to retain moisture, protect shrubs and plants during the winter months and offer shelter to many hibernating creatures, including pollinators.
- Leaves are a good addition to a compost. Leaves can be added whole or mulched. Mulched leaves will decompose faster.
- Leaves are biodegradable. However, sending them to the landfill doesn’t guarantee they will break down as quickly as they do under natural conditions.
- Do not allow leaves to pile up in or near waterways. The abundance of rich nutrients left by the decomposing leaves can alter the balance of the ecosystem.
- Allow ample time in spring for the hibernating creatures to awaken before removing the leaf piles.
The plants, the fairies, the creatures both great and small, are prepping for the winter months. Regardless of your current location or season, step outside today for a few moments. Connect and listen, breathe deeply and feel.
A healthy planet begins with you!
Read more here about the benefits of leaving the leaves: