The Power of Trees & Leaves

By Carol Markham, CWC Conservationist

The dazzling colors of deciduous trees are upon us, freckling our landscapes with vivid shades of autumn. Meander down any country road or through your local neighborhood, and the hillsides and yards are ablaze with magnificent hues of red, yellow and orange. As colder days approach, these leaves will dance, twirl and fall gracefully, garnishing our lawns with brilliant colors. To many, this spells w-o-r-k, but the benefits and beauty of trees and leaves in your yard outweigh the time and effort it takes for fall cleanup and winter readiness.

The environmental, economic and personal benefits of a yard dotted with trees are enormous to a homeowner and their surrounding community. In addition, with many of us experiencing the death of our native ash trees, we need to think about replacing what we have lost. Native trees increase property values and save homeowners money on energy costs. They help buffer noise pollution and can moderate local climates by providing shade and cooling our homes. Trees slow water runoff, thus preventing soil erosion into our streets and waterways. They store carbon and clean the air. Trees regulate temperature extremes, increase wildlife habitat and improve the land’s capacity to adapt to climate change. Phew! Who would have imagined the rewards we receive just by having trees in our yards! And we didn’t even mention the beauty and structure trees give to our landscapes! Even the most brilliant of painters could not capture the true beauty that our trees give to us this time of year.

With this splendor comes an explosion of color that eventually ends up on the ground. This color carpet is not only stunningly beautiful but, if managed properly, also adds free natural fertilizer to our lawns every fall. What a perfect scenario for feeding and nurturing our grass heading into the cold winter months! These leaves are wonderfully small pieces of free fertilizer that every homeowner should want to take advantage of. And the easiest way to do this is to mow and mulch them right into your lawn. Mulching mowers can shred unwanted leaves into tiny, organically-rich particles that will eventually decompose. These leaf particles add valuable nutrients back into the soil and improve water absorbency, resulting in a stronger, healthier lawn. This thin layer of mulched leaves can also help protect your lawn from harsh winter conditions, ensuring a healthy lawn next spring. Instead of removing this bountiful beauty with rakes and plastic bags, we should be reaping the benefits and nutrients they offer and give them back to our tired end-of-summer lawns.

So…plant a native oak, maple or birch…and enjoy the glory of its year-round benefits as well as its spectacular leaves. The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy would be happy to offer free assistance on selecting a tree and its best location in your yard. Just email Carol the Conservationist at carol@chautauquawatershed.org and schedule your yard consultation today! You, your yard, and your community will be thankful you did!

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