Homeowners Constantly Baffled by Leaves

Apartment and condo dwellers who aren’t personally responsible for yard maintenance get to remain blissfully unconcerned about the extent of their LCI (Leaf Consciousness Index). Their LCIs top out in the lower 2s and 3s—the scores for those whose leaf awareness is confined to occasions when they happen to notice the autumnal color exhibition that some landscapes provide in years when conditions are just right.

Homeowners whose properties include more than minimal populations of leaf-bearing plants are (depending on the homeowner’s disposition) either irritated by—or happily engaged in—fall’s mass leaf swan dives. To some, what happens when the leaves take leave is an annual near-cataclysm requiring backbreaking toil. To the others, it’s an opportunity to bond with Mother Nature by taking advantage of Her bounty. (In New England and parts of the Midwest, it’s also an opportunity to sell cider donuts to leaf-peeping tourists—but that doesn’t bear on homeowners).

For locals whose properties include a great many trees—or whose windward neighbors turn a blind eye to their own leaves when they blow across the property line—the phenomenon gives rise to many of the season’s most popular Google searches:

• “How do you take care of fall leaves?”
• “Should you clean up leaves in the fall?”
• “Should leaves be left on the lawn over winter?”
• “Do you really need to rake all those leaves?”

It’s not clear why Google would necessarily know the answers, but it provides some anyway. These can be contradictory, varying from warnings containing worrisome phrases like ‘excessive leaf matter,’ ‘leaf mold disease,’ and ‘smother the grass,’ to more guilt-relieving solutions like, ‘collect them in bags for next year’s compost,’ and (the most optimistic) ‘mow them into your lawn.’ (Homeowners who choose that last one probably also have LCIs down there in the 2-to-3 range).

The real solution for how best to handle the autumnal bounty is one likely to vary for each affected landscape. For area homeowners whose thumbs are anything but green, it probably requires the advice of a local amateur or professional—people with LCIs in the 7-plus range.