The leaves (and needles) have fallen. Do I have to rake them up?

By the end of this past long weekend there were far more leaves on the ground than on the branches of this ash tree in a back corner of the Manse property.

Raking leaves at the Manse in the olden days – 1970, to be exact. This is the front lawn, which in those days would be covered in fall by the leaves from the huge maple tree that used to be there. You can see my dad’s truck set to cart the leaves away; in the background is the home of Will and Isabella Holmes, a building no longer extant. Thanks to my nascent reportorial skills when I took this photo at age 10, I have a list of those in it, left to right: Dad (The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, not wearing his Sunday best); my brother John; Darren, Danny and Sheila Baumhour, three of the many children in that neighbouring family; and my sister, Melanie (in the back of the truck).

While my last post sang the praises of the beauty of the autumn foliage in the Queensborough area over this past Thanksgiving weekend, the wind and rain over the weekend meant that by Monday a lot of the leaves had fallen to the ground. Those from the trees in and adjacent to the Manse’s yard were no exception. It wasn’t just leaves that fell, though; in one corner of the back yard we also have quite the blanket of needles from two large evergreen trees next door.

You’d never know there was green grass under this newly arrived blanket of fallen evergreen needles, but there is. Should the lawn be raked clean? (Note handsome new clothesline setup, by the way!)

So I need some advice from those of you more knowledgeable than I (which would be pretty much everybody) on the current thinking on best practices with fallen leaves and needles.

6 thoughts on “The leaves (and needles) have fallen. Do I have to rake them up?

  1. Yep, they gotta come off. all have to be raked. If one owns a red pickup (colour does not really matter), one could rake them onto a large tarp, two people pick up corners and dump leavs into said truck. Then find a place to dump them. Hm… if you live on a dead end road like I do, you could drive very fast down the road and most of the load will just go. However, not the best method if you have neighbours. Remember, the idea of composting is green and great but if you do not have a very large garden in which to work the compost, what do you do with it? Like outdoor privies, these problems build up over the years. Best solution: Have a good job in the city which would provide the cash flow that would enable one to hire some good local talent to look after leaves. This method will be good for the economy of unnamed hamlet in the outback.

    • Grant (I’m pretty sure it’s Grant who wrote this one, not Gayle), I have to tell you that your wise-to-the-ways-of-Hastings-County and at the same time very sensible (and funny) comment absolutely made my day. You’re right: we do not (yet) have a big garden so as to be able to do something useful with the compost that we might (or might not, being compost rookies) be able to generate. Your suggested best solution is undoubtedly the right one, though I am still thinking that a weekend’s worth of leaf- and needle-raking might be good for me. Or then again, it might leave me exhausted and with a sore back and wishing really hard that I had taken your advice about contributing to the local economy in the outback!

  2. Wow! I have never seen a picture of the house that my great grandparents lived in. Would you have more?


    • Hello, Christina! I’m so glad that through that photo I was able to give you a tiny glimpse of that house, but I believe that’s the only one I have – though the next time I’m up at my family’s farm in Haliburton, where all the photo albums are stored, I will look to see if there might be any more that show Will and Isabella’s house. I’m sorry the photo I did have didn’t show very much of it, and what you could see looked quite dark. It was a very simple house, for sure, but I remember it being a very warm (as in welcoming) one. I have extremely fond memories of coming through its front door into the kitchen on Halloween and being offered some of your great-grandmother’s awesome homemade fudge! (Which I think gives me the theme for my Oct. 31 post…)

  3. Having a rather large vegetable garden and subscribing to the Permaculture method of growing we layer the leaves alternately with old rotted hay on the garden beds.

    The leaves contain mostly carbon and trace mineral elements and the hay is mostly nitrogen. This mixture is much loved by the various bacteria and denizens of the soil and breaks down to rich humus.

    In your case there is not much to do except compost it with some form of nitrogen. Blood meal will do. This can be used on your garden beds the following year. Remember to keep the compost well aerated and it won’t stink. Mix it up at least once a week as long as it isn’t frozen. Whatever you do don’t mix evergreen needles with the leaves as they are very acidic.

    • Oh, Dave, you and Irina are so far ahead of Raymond and me when it comes to composting! I have grave doubts that we’ll be able to get our act together to do the right thing with all our potential compost this year, but I promise that we will try to do better next year. That is very interesting about not mixing the leaves and the needles. Does that mean needles are useless for compost?

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