Leaf Litter

Asked February 5, 2016, 1:51 PM EST

Hello! Every year we never seem to get to cleaning up the leaf litter from all our trees (Japanese maples, Big Leaf maple). Much of it settles, is wet, freezes, thaws, & so on. We have bedding plants around which it settles.
(1) Is it impt to remove it for the sake of the other plants?
(2) If yes, should we remove it from 2" away like you're supposed to with mulch?
(3) If yes, by when should we remove it?
(4) Where is it okay to allow the leaf litter to just decompose?

Washington County Oregon

1 Response

Thank you for your question.

Maple leaves are fine to leave on the ground to over winter and break down, with a caveat.

Are they piling up? If they are allowed to pile up, they can become a safe haven for pests like slugs, snails and others to lay eggs and they may, to a certain extent, block light from your lawn, causing it to be less healthy. If they are evenly dispersed, they are a great food for earthworms and other beneficials.
If they are not piling up around the base of the tree, they do not need to be raked away from the trunk.

Something to bear in mind as well, if you live in a Home Owners Association, there may be CC&Rs having to do with maintenance of your property that may preclude your allowing the leaves to break down on their own. Also, always check your municipality's codes about property maintenance, just to be certain you won't inadvertently be incurring a violation.

I hope this information helps. Thank you again for using Ask An Expert.