Landgarten von Jutta und Michael Bongers am Niederrhein

Garden column: Autumn leaves – The gardener’s gold

October and November are the months when the deciduous trees and shrubs shed their leaves. Every garden owner deals with falling leaves in his own way.

I would like to report here how we deal with it.

First of all: We do not yet use any leaf vacuums or leaf blowers; we still fan the leaves together in the old fashioned way.

There are several very old trees in the garden: sweet cherries, walnuts, pears and apples. In addition middle age fagus,  Japanese cherries, oaks, liquidambar  to name just a few. This results in a huge amount of leaf fall. Most of it falls on our 1,500 square meter lawn. That alone is already an important reason to fan the leaves together. But one after anonther:


We collect the foliage of the walnut tree and the swamp oak separately and apply it to our outer tracks. These are the 75-100 cm wide edges on our 250 meter long hornbeam hedges. The foliage of the walnut tree secretes growth-inhibiting substances. In addition, like the leaves of the oak, it rots very slowly.


We deposit all other leaves in the rear part of our wooden border over a length of 40 meters. Here it can start to rot till spring and in winter it serves a kind of playground and shelter for birds, insects and hedgehogs. When the composter has been moved and emptied in the spring, I gradually fill the composter with the leaves. This creates – in connection with other garden waste – perfect humus compost, which is then distributed again in the garden.

The leaves needs to remove from the lawn so that there is enough light and oxygen to reach the lawn surface. I also take away all the leaves from the borders so that our many winter bloomers get enough space. These are mainly the finer bulbous plants such as snowdrops and crocuses, but also cyclamen, spring roses and epimedium, which need light and oxygen.

When our large perennial borders are finished at some point, I will probably place the leaves there in February / March. Before that, I usually “muck” the perennial borders with stored manure. The leaves covers everything well and with the beginning growth in April everything will be overgrown by the perennials. This should give a good mulching effect, while at the same time supplying nutrients and introducing organic material into the soil.