There’s not much in nature that’s more beautiful than the changing leaves in the fall. Several times I have traveled some distance to see the foliage, including the Appalachian foothills of my native Adams County, Ohio.
But as I much as I like seeing the fall colors, I have a love/hate relationship with leaves because of the work involved when they fall to the ground.
During the many years that I’ve owned a house, leaves have always been a problem. I hate raking them, and I have absolutely no doubt that this year my trees produced a much larger number of leaves than ever before, along with other problems.
For nearly 30 years, my deciduous trees were mostly silver maples, which are not recommended by most landscape experts. Because of their low price and fast-growing characteristics, there are a lot of them out there. I had three large ones, and I was young enough that raking them hadn’t started to bother me that much.
My problem was that the maples paid absolutely no attention the leaf pickup schedule of the City of Lima. Year after year, the city would schedule their first pickup when my trees hadn’t even changed color yet. Then they would change, but the city’s last pickup always occurred before the leaves fell, and I was left to find a way to get rid of them.
Then we moved to the country, after I let myself be seduced by the beauty of a large hillside lot that had 30 mature oak trees. I found that they dropped leaves at different times, and in such quantities that the army of a small country would have been hard-pressed to keep up with raking them.
To solve the problem, I bought a leaf machine to pull behind my lawn tractor. It would suck the leaves from the mower deck with a 5 horsepower blower, grind them up and dump them in a bin. It worked well. The ground-up leaves made for much smaller piles, but it required frequent emptying. One year I was recovering from surgery and unable to even use the machine, so I hired someone to run it. It took him 43 hours, so you can imagine what a job raking would have been.
Twenty years ago, after seven years of dealing with the leaves, we were fed up and decided to build a new house. It didn’t solve my problem as much as I had hoped. With woods on one side and a long line of tall locust trees on the back line of the new property, the fact that I had only freshly planted young trees didn’t alleviate my leaf problem. The leaves from the woods blow into my yard, and those pesky little locust leaves are everywhere.
Several years ago, I started mulching the leaves with my zero-turn mower. Once again I thought the problem was solved. That worked fine until 2018, when there were more leaves than ever, and just too deep to mulch, so once again we raked.
Then the fall of 2019 arrived, along with more leaves than I ever thought possible, and with some strange happenings. First my maple tree leaves did not change color; they fell off in copious quantities while still green. The Bradford pear trees, which always have thick, leathery leaves, dropped more and much thicker leaves than ever before. Then, the sweet gum leaves turned brown, but just would not fall. They actually hung on until a high wind blew them off after Christmas.
I wound up celebrating the new year with a back yard full of leaves. I had to get out my mower, put away over a month earlier, and mulch leaves on Jan. 6, about six weeks later than I had ever had to deal with leaves before.
It’s enough to make me long for the sand, rocks and cactus that made up my nephews’ yards when they used to live in Phoenix.
Don Stratton is a retired inspector for the Lima Police Department. He writes a guest column for The Lima News, often focusing on police matters.