I have a lot of sidewalk foot traffic and last fall I let folks crush the fallen leaves. Then I blew the leaf bits onto the lawn as mulch. The leaves are from the old trees in the residential downtown area. I don't know what kind.

Is there a reason for me to rake and dispose of the leaves, or is this an otherwise good idea?

­— Ricki

It doesn't matter all that much what tree the leaves come from, most all of them will be fine in the garden.

My only concern would be that if the layer of crushed leaves got a little thick it would smother the grass. A very light layer of fine bits would be fine, but if it's more than that I'd look for other spots to put the leaves.

Actually, I think many people miss out on the benefits of recycling their leaves in their own yards in the fall.

Not only does it save the work and cost of transporting it to the County Compost facility to be broken down (not to even mention the landfill), but it provides something that the plants in your yard would benefit greatly from.

Using the fallen leaves in your yard as a mulch improves the soil environment, which means healthier plants. Plus, it helps keep the weeds down — what's not to love?

I think it's best if the leaves are shredded before being used as a mulch.

What I've done in my yard is to rake or blow the fallen leaves onto the lawn and then chop and suck them up in the lawnmower. I'll spread this free mulch into a 2–3 inches deep layer around under my trees, shrubs and perennials.

People often react against it thinking it will look bad, but I don't think it does at all.

First of all, I'll mostly tuck it under the plant where it's less noticeable but since the shredded leaves decompose pretty quickly, they just kind of disappear and the bark that we have around our beds is all that's left.

You could also just put the mulch over the vegetable garden to improve the soil there. An alternative would be to sprinkle the shredded leaves with a little nitrogen fertilizer and mix them into the soil.

What are the water needs of Russian hawthorn?

— Marjorie

Russian hawthorn is pretty drought tolerant once established.

When you water, give it a deep soak getting the water 12–18 inches into the soil and then let it go for a week or two before soaking it again.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506, or email info@bookcliffgardens.com.

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