Bartlett on Gardening: When Autumn Leaves Begin to Fall

When autumn leaves begin to fall, it is important to get them off the lawn. After all, if you've just renovated that patch of green, the last thing you want is for leaves to block out sunlight from the sprouting grass seed. A blower is certainly a huge help with this ongoing chore. Unfortunately, I ditched the blower after an incident involving an electrical fire. Now I stick to my trusty rake. Lucky me, I've a grove of trees dominating the backyard, so I rake the leaves back under the trees. There they slowly decompose, returning nitrogen to the soil.

Not everyone has a mini-forest to absorb leaves. If they are papery thin like those of silver maples, run over them with the mower. That should cause them to magically disappear into the turf where Mother Nature will recycle them.

If, however, the leaves are substantial like those of our mighty oaks, they must be herded into piles. These leaves can be shredded with the mower and then tilled or dug into the vegetable garden or an area where you grow annuals.This enriches the soil while improving its texture. One can compost them until they turn into "leaf mold." This can be used as a top dressing around any plants or worked into the soil.

Cool-season weeds are already sprouting. Pulling chickweed now is a tiresome task but so much easier than dealing with it next spring. Perennial weeds will respond better to herbicide sprays at this time of year because their energy is focused on storing sugars in the roots. The herbicide is thus able to get down into the roots as well to kill the plant rather than just causing the top growth to wither.

The common violet is a prime example of a weed that is really tough to eradicate. Sadly, one reads that digging them out yields the best results. Seed-bearing capsules are tucked among the roots right at the surface of the soil. I've had some success controlling them by spraying with a follow-up application of pre-emergent herbicide. Alas, within a few months, they return in even greater numbers.

Digging weeds and dealing with the falling leaves--what a great way to burn enough calories to really enjoy holiday treats!

Native Californian Ann Bartlett never lets a lack of experience with a plant stop her from trying it in the ornamental beds around her home

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