Fall Cleanup.....But Not Too Clean!
Folks are used to cleaning up in Fall, and who can blame them? Nothing satisfies like a tidy landscape, well tucked-in for winter's nap. But in reality, all those leaves are nature's way of retrieving vital nutrients for the plants. Each year, the previous summer's fallen foliage begins to degrade and form humus, enriching the soil beneath the trees from whence they came. By robbing the land of this valuable commodity, we create a nutritional spiral that ends in sterile soil and the need to fertilize and condition endlessly.
Of course, the lawn areas must be cleaned off for their own good, as well as high traffic and visibility zones, where aesthetics are crucial. However, in many corners of the garden, spaces can be found where some fall debris can be left behind to do its work. If you have natural areas, for instance, deposit cleaned up leaves within them, where they won't be unsightly or inhibit garden growth.
In general. but especially in border gardens, don't be overly concerned with blowing out every last piece of leaf or twig; it's simply unnecessary, and often does more damage than just removing some future nutrients. Unregulated blower emissions are a well documented source of air and noise pollution. They also blow expensive mulch away, which then has to be repurchased. Power blowers have immense force which can damage tender plants, even launching some straight out of the garden. And, as always, extra leaves can be used as a protective mulch on roses, new perennials, or other semi-hardy plantings.
A small shredder from the the hardware store is a great investment and makes leaf debris more attractive and much easier to work with, but either way, consider giving mother nature a break, and treating your garden to the nutrients it worked all year to create.