Leafs are changing colour and starting to fall in Vancouver.  The colours are beautiful and there are a couple of things to look at while you enjoy this fall season.  Many people will choose perennial plants over annuals in their gardens because of some of the labor savings.  Trees and shrubs at this time of year that are sheading their leafs are starting to change colour and it is a great time to get out and walk your neighborhood or a neighborhood you like and start picking colours and plants from the varieties that you area seeing.  Take pictures of the shrubs and plants and bring them to your local garden centre, there they will be able to tell you what varieties you have seen and make the appropriate suggestions.  Building year round colour through the choice of trees and shrubs is a great way to add some brightness into a grey day.

When it comes to the leafs that are dropping from the trees in your garden you have 3 choices of what to do with them.

1)   Collect the leafs and remove them entirely from your yard

This is the long-standing practice of most homeowners and is usually the practice in urban environments.  This may also be the case even if you will mulch some of the leafs if you have an extremely large tree or trees in your yard and mulch will produce more product than you need.

2)   Collect the mulched leafs and compost them

When composting leafs you want to make sure that the leafs will actually compost.  Composting leafs takes along time as a result of their low nitrogen content.  Leafs are what is termed as the “browns” in composting.   It is best to use your mower to collect the leafs as this will shred the leafs and will save space and decrease the composting time.  When composting the leafs you will need to add “greens” which are the nitrogen rich components of compost.  The greens can be grass clipping, plant clippings, coffee grounds or other nitrogen sources that are allowed in a composter.  You can also get compost starter at nursery’s and hardware stores.  If you are using natural greens, soil or composted soil you will want to produce layers of browns and greens. Place a layer of mulched leafs down somewhere between 4 to 6 inches deep and then cover them with a layer of dirt, composted soil or plant trimmings about 1 to 2 inches  deep and then repeating the process over and over.  Follow the instructions for commercially purchased compost starter.  When you are finished your layering you will need to keep your pile moist and turned every three to four weeks.

3)   Mulch the leafs in place on your lawn

You can mulch the leafs in place on your lawn but there are some precautions with doing this.  The biggest concern is that mulch can in no way cover or smother the grass.  You should be starting to mulch when the leafs are less than one inch thick on the lawn you will have to go over the lawn 2 or three times to reduce the leafs to a fine enough consistency that they can be of a benefit and not a detriment.  The advantages to mulching in place can be timesaving’s and nutrients for your lawn.

4)   Collect the mulched leafs from your lawn and spread them in your garden.

A final option for your leafs is to mulch them with your lawn mower and collect them in the grass bag to be spread in your garden.  Spread them in your garden being careful not to cover the crowns of perennial plants or laying the mulch up against the bases of trees and shrubs.  This will add nutrients to your garden and provide a protective layer for roots.  It is important that you apply a slow release fertilizer to your garden in the spring to help boost the nitrogen content of the soil which maybe lower as a result of the composting leafs.