Love removing leaves? Hate it?

I guess it depends if you are 9 years old and love to leap into the pile of leaves... or if you are the one doing all the raking.

Removing leaves from under the drip line of a tree actually harms the tree.

"Wait" you say. "Aren't we supposed to get them off of the grass?

Well, that depends on whether you want all that pristine grass all the way up to the trunk of the tree.

"Wait" you say. "Isn't that why I have the landscaper put all of that expensive mulch down in a circle and pile it up under the tree?"

Leaves have become a contentious issue in the suburban culture.

Here's the truth. The tree sheds it leaves for several reason.

  • They're done for the season; can't produce any more food for the tree during winter.
  • With snow on them the branches would break and that would really harm or kill the tree.
  • The tree WANTS the nutrients that remain in the leaves to fuel it for the next season... leaves are the tree's fertilizer.
That "clean" look needs to go out of style

I hate to say it, and I don't mean to deride my landscaper and arborist friends, but there are some in the profession who only want to sell mulch and labor, and don't really care about your trees.

The practice of removing leaves to "clean up" (as they say) and the practice of piling mulch as high as a volcano at the base of a tree are not needed at all. And, oh! Those awful gas-powered noise-making leaf blowers!

So tell them you don't really need any more of that black mulch.


They--or you, if you are inclined--can SHRED your tree's own leaves and leave them right under the DRIP LINE of your tree. There are shredding mowers.

Okay, maybe in a bit closer to the trunk from the drip line if you have a big tree with a large spread, but the idea is to help your tree remain healthy!


Oh, yeah. What about the grass?

The grass could grow right up to the base of the tree, but then the landscapers come along with those awful weed-wackers and harm the tree by running the cord into the trunk. So not a good idea. That was why they all thought that putting mulch circles around the base of trees would be a good idea, but even that got out of hand when they piled up the mulch into volcanos every year. (If you hadn't guessed, that is my #1 way to hurt trees.)

So a small zone of no more than 1" of mulch at the base is sufficient to keep away the weed-wackers and to protect the tree.

But, really. How much grass does a person need? Maybe ground cover or vegetables would be better. ... Maybe use less gas-powered equipment and protect the environment, too. And, oh! Those awful gas-powered noise-making leaf blowers! (I'm sure you can tell how I feel about them!)

So LEAVE the LEAVES!!! :-)

Please click to go to each of the Top 10 Ways to Hurt Trees

#10 Way to Hurt Trees: Pollution, litter, and dumping.

#9 Way to Hurt Trees:  Remove the leaves from the drip zone.

#8 Way to Hurt Trees: Wrong or inappropriate use of chemicals.

#7 Way to Hurt Trees: Poor transplanting.

#6 Way to Hurt Trees:  Failing to Water even mature trees in heat and drought.

#5 Way to Hurt Trees: Careless Practices and Injury

#4 Way to Hurt Trees: Cutting down nearby trees or disturbing the ecosystem.

#3 Way to Hurt Trees: Construction abuses.

#2 Way to Hurt Trees: Strangulation by ropes, ties, wires, etc.

#1 Way to Hurt Trees: Suffocation by burying roots under mulch, fill, planters, or regrading of land.

Please check our sister website: PartnerWithNature.org.