Go for a fall look with Sustainable Landscape Management Email
Tuesday, October 13, 2020 02:00 AM

Sustainable Landscape Management (SLM) Colorado has three primary goals for the Colorado landscape industry:

  • Create a blueprint for all professionals who maintain landscapes.
  • Increase water conservation and reduce plant loss.
  • Raise the level of professionalism.

When it comes to maintenance, the basic rule is to apply the right maintenance practices at the right time. One sustainable practice of SLM that applies to this time of year is leaving some leaves in the landscape.

Nature isn’t tidy
The SLM course and manual recommend that landscape professionals reconsider the practice of removing every bit of leaf litter from the ground surface. This, along with other SLM practices, may take some educating and convincing on the part of the client or HOA. After all, many of us have grown up with the belief that an ideal landscape is one free of all brown matter and looks exceptionally tidy.

Leaving some leaf matter on the landscape allows the natural process of decomposition. This supports the growth of microbes that rebuild or improve the soil. Nutrients from trees are sent to the leaves in fall; as leaves break down, roots of trees and other plants absorb those nutrients from the soil, reports research from Penn State’s department of ecosystem science and management.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, leaf litter also provides a place for many butterflies and moths to overwinter or lay their eggs. Clients who are concerned about having a neat appearance to their landscape may reconsider when they understand the effect that such strict maintenance protocols can have on pollinators.

How much to leave behind?
You should determine how much leaf matter can be left behind to allow for speedy decomposition. A heavy layer of leaves may not break down in a timely manner and could suffocate the soil below. You might also mulch the leaves and return some of it right back to the soil to decompose and add nutrients. Once you learn how much you can leave, schedule leaf cleanup less often, but frequently enough to meet your goal.

Of course, you should continue to remove all trash or other materials that will not decompose or add to soil health.

A version of this article appeared in the September/October 2020 issue of Colorado Green, ALCC’s print magazine. 

Read more in this issue of Colorado Green NOW:
G&G Equipment named Walker Mower top dealer
Welcome to the new Colorado Green NOW

Failure to call 811 could mean costly fiber optic damage
SBA proposes changes to increase eligibility for contracting and loan programs