Hello fellow readers,
This growing season provided a perfect environment for foliar disease. Earlier in the summer Hector from Morristown, NJ sent a photo of his Mom’s maple tree dotted with black spots. “All the leaves seem to have the cooties.” I sent the photo off to my favorite associate arborist. “It’s a leaf spot fungus, very common this year from the wet weather. It will not affect the health of the plant, just esthetics,” assured Dave Dubie of Greenwood Tree (Montiville, NJ). Encouraging good air circulation by pruning branches as needed helps. Dave also suggested a slow release fertilizer be applied this fall to help replenish nutrients that may be lacking due to early leaf drop.
I always advocate using fallen leaves in the garden, but wondered if fungi impacted leaves should not be used. Dave agreed, though he felt most fungus would not be a problem. “It’s kind of a grey area” as some fungus and foliar disease can spread. If unsure, Dave suggested not composting diseased leaves. Rather, remove them from your property. He added, “however, a disease like maple leaf spot is not contagious and will not infect the compost area.”
If you opt to remove your leaves, don’t forget leaf manners. It’s not neighborly to put your leaves into other’s woods or fields without permission. And, unless your town has a leaf sucking-up program (curbside vacuuming), putting them in the street is not a polite solution. Bagging leaves into plastic bags which end up in landfills is a sad fate, unless the leaves are riddled with a contagious disease. The best option is to collect your leaves in paper sacks and bring them to a compost facility. Many towns pick up the bagged leaves for you.
Dave and I spoke about the lackluster fall. He thought the maple trees would still have time to turn red. This past weekend I had the privilege of volunteering at Comfort Zone Camp, a grief camp for kids, held at Camp Mason in Hardwick, NJ. When we arrived, the maples along the pond were dreary. As the weekend unfolded they quickly turned brilliant red and orange. It felt as though they shifted right before our eyes, much like the spirits of the children who attended Comfort Zone Camp. A glorious transformation. Garden Dilemmas? Askmarystone@gmail.com