Request for Leaves

Do you have piles and piles of leaves in your yard? If you are not sure what to do with the leaves you rake, Briggs Avenue Community Garden would like to have them!

It’s that time of year — Briggs Avenue Community Garden is taking/accepting donations of bagged leaves. We shred and compost the leaves to mulch in the garden, and we will gladly take them off your hands (for free!)

Please help us spread the word to all of your friends and neighbors — the leaves help us build the soils and prevent weeds from setting in this winter. This can be especially helpful to folks who don’t pay for yard waste pickup.

Load up your car and drop them off at the front entrance gate of Briggs Avenue Community Garden (the garden is across the street from East Coast Metal Distributing at 1313 South Briggs Avenue, Durham NC 27703.) You can pull up at the curb and drop the bags at the front entrance gate, outside the fence, any time day or night.

P.S. We do not/cannot accept other yard waste — JUST LEAVES! Sorry about that — no sticks, no grass clippings, no wood….

-Ann Barnes

To Leave, or Not to Leave

To Leave, or Not to Leave

or Don’t Leave (all) The Leaves

By Wendy Diaz, Durham Master Gardener Volunteer

Photo: Wendy Diaz
Photo: Wendy Diaz

Vibrant leaves on trees can add color to your fall garden but they soon become a nuisance when they drop on your grass, especially if it is recently sprouted grass that you seeded in September. You must remove the leaves from the grass because they prevent the grass blades from conducting photosynthesis and this impacts their vigor.

This fall it may be difficult to use a leaf blower because we have had so much rain and the leaves have formed a wet mat. Embrace the rake and get some upper body exercise. Gather the leaves into a pile and place them in your compost, beneath trees or in an area of your yard where they can decompose (not near a stream). I always made a big pile for my kids to jump in when there were small. Do not add black walnut leaves or twigs to your compost because it releases substances that might harm plants and do not add pine needles to your compost because their waxy coating is resistant to decay ( You can also use leaves to mulch your perennial bed to protect it from the winter elements. Leaves can be worked into your garden to add nutrient-rich organic matter to your soil as well. If leaves are dry, run them over with your lawn mower and you can reapply the fines (top dress) to your grass as fertilizer.

Some city residents can put them in leaf bags with their brown city waste cart for curbside service whereas county residents transport them to their local Durham County Convenience Site, however, this can be a ‘waste’ of a valuable garden resource. Nevertheless, it is preferable than to rake them into the street where they enter our storm sewer drains and end up in our already compromised streams and lakes. It is better to have the leaves decay at your local solid-waste facility or in your garden then in our waterways where they release nutrients as they decompose, contribute to the growth of unwanted algae which consumes essential dissolved oxygen that kills fish. It is against city ordinances to put or blow your leaves on the street or in a storm drain. In addition to adding nutrients to our waterways they also clog drains, cause flooding and pose a danger to bicyclists (

Photo: Wendy Diaz
Photo: Wendy Diaz

If you are not into all that exercise, here is a garden tip from our former Extension Agent Michelle Wallace: net areas where it is difficult to rake leaves such as ground covers or shrubs like junipers.  When leaves fall, they fall on the net, and you can just lift the net off the area or shrub to remove the leaves. This could save you hours in raking time. Grass is not the only thing that should be cleared of fallen leaves. Don’t forget to clean your gutters regularly so leaves don’t accumulate and clog them or your downspouts, which will cause water to accumulate and eventually wood to rot on your house.

You mustn’t feel obligated to rake all your leaves. Another point of view on the leaf issue is that the decomposing leaves provide important habitat for wildlife species If you have a natural area in your yard, why not leave some leaves to provide habitat for invertebrate species, including beneficial earthworms and many insects and make the birds happy. So enjoy the color while you can and think of the leaves less of a nuisance and more of a gift from nature with the added benefit of exercise.

Photo: Wendy Diaz
Photo: Wendy Diaz

Why Do the Leaves Change Color?

Why Do the Leaves Change Color?

by Michelle Wallace

Society is profoundly impacted by autumn. Every year as the days get shorter, nights grow longer, and the temperature outdoors becomes cooler the leaves in our abundant deciduous forests across the state and country begin to turn bright hues of gold and crimson. Literally millions of tourists every year come to visit our national and state forests to experience fall’s brilliance. Perhaps the warm colors are nature’s way of warming our spirits in preparation for the cold temperatures that follow.

The changing of color in leaves is largely connected to the change in the length of day. As nights grow longer and days grow shorter, photosynthesis and chlorophyll production in the leaves slows down until it eventually comes to a stop. Chlorophyll in a leaf is what gives leaves their green color. When chlorophyll is absent the other pigments present inside the leaf begin to appear. These pigments are known as caroteniods. They produce colors of yellow, orange, and brown. In addition to the change in the length of day, a plant’s fall color is influenced by the weather and the intensity of light. Anthocyanins pigments (reds and purples) are produced when there are excessive amounts of sugar in the leaves in combination with bright light. It is hypothesized that the anthocyanin pigments in leaves help to protect the photosynthetic system as plants prepare to go dormant and nutrients are being transferred to other areas of the plant. The anthocyanin pigment produced in some leaves is largely dependent on the pH level of the cell sap (sugar) in the leaf. Leaves with highly acidic cell sap produce very red hues while foliage with lower pH levels produce purple hues.

The weather is what causes a corky membrane to develop between the branch and the leaf stem. This membrane reduces the flow of nutrients into the leaves and begins this whole process which is completed when a layer of cells at the base of each leaf is clogged, sealing the tree from the environment and finally causing the leaf to fall off.

Nature creates this magical canvas every fall which is an inspiration to gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts. Consider incorporating a few tree specimens into your landscape that have stunning fall foliage. The United States National Arboretum has a wonderful list of plants listing their fall foliage colors that range from yellow to brilliant red. Go to . To find out more information on planting trees and shrubs in North Carolina go to .