This time of year I am always reminded of an article I received several years ago from one of my clients, called “Leave Leaves Alone!”.
The article was about mulching leaves in the garden instead of picking them up. In most instances this works quite well; we add leaf litter to insulate many plantings. However, leaf litter can also promote fungus and disease, particularly in pachysandra and myrtle. Each property is different, and we take that into consideration .
For areas outside the garden, I am all for leaving shredded material on the ground. Sometimes, however, heavily wooded properties can have too much shredded leaf left behind, which can smother the lawn if decomposition is slow. Different types of leaves break down at different rates, and fall at different times. Some oak and beech trees, in particular, have a very late leaf drop with leaves coming down long after the lawn stops growing. At this point we prefer not to add heavy amounts of shredded material to the lawn areas in particular.
Generally, we shred 60% to 70% of the falling leaves, with the remainder being composted or made into mulch. We usually compost on-site, but with smaller lakefront properties, for example, we will remove and compost off-site due to logistics. In all cases, we use commercial mowers equipped with high lift blades that lift and shred material to a smaller, more easily composted size.