Spring Clean-up

Asked April 1, 2013, 11:55 AM EDT

I've read a lot regarding mulching with leaves, etc., in Fall, but I cannot find anything on when I can remove the mulch from my roses, perennials, etc. Is it too early to start raking up the leaves now?

El Paso County Colorado

3 Responses

Thank you for your question.

How many inches of leaves did you place on your plantings? If you placed 2-3 inches my question to you is, why do you want to remove them? They will break down over time, and can be mixed into the soil around your perennials for a great organic soil amendment. Also, with looming water restrictions leaves serve as an excellent way to reduce evaporation.

Leaves are an excellent choice for organic mulch.

    • Reduce surface evaporation.
    • Improve water penetration and air movement.
    • Control soil temperature fluctuations.
    • Protect shallow-rooted plants from freeze damage and frost heave.
    • Improve soil structure and nutrient availability.
Keep in mind that organic mulches break down over time, and eventually will need to be replenished. While this decomposition recycles nutrients back to the soil, it temporarily depletes nitrogen levels in the process. Occasionally, you will need to supplement nitrogen if you begin to notice signs of poor plant performance, such as yellowing lower leaves or weak growth. Sprinkle a few handfuls of general purpose nitrogen fertilizer around the mulched plants, up to two pounds of actual nitrogen per thousand square feet.Again, thank you for your queston.

Thank you very much for your answer. This certainly will make my life easier and my back appreciates it even more.


Two thoughts: first, in Colorado Springs it is really hard to tell when spring has actually arrived. There is always at least one good snow in April, and sometimes more. You should wait until at least the last average frost date which depending on your elevation and orientation, is about April 15.

Second thought: what are you going to do with those leaves once you rake them up? Since leaves make excellent summer mulch as well as winter protection, I suggest you simply rake them away from the base of the plants and leave them in the bed to add organic matter and to reduce water loss from the soil.