Talking Trees with Davey Tree

Why You Should Love Your Leaves

October 13, 2022 The Davey Tree Expert Company Season 2 Episode 39
Talking Trees with Davey Tree
Why You Should Love Your Leaves
Show Notes Transcript

Jay Judd from Davey’s East Denver office talks about the benefits of leaves, emerald ash borer (EAB), his favorite trees and what employee ownership means to him while we celebrate Employee Ownership Month through the month of October.  
To celebrate Employee Ownership Month, stay tuned to the end of each episode throughout the month of October to hear what each Davey guest enjoys about employee ownership at Davey.    


In this episode we cover:  

  • The benefits of leaves (0:50)  
  • Using leaves for mulch and compost (2:45)  
  • Fall foliage in Colorado (3:35)  
  • Jay’s favorite tree for fall color (4:50)  
  • Using leaves for crafts (5:11)  
  • How Jay started with Davey (6:35)  
  • What employee ownership means to Jay (7:42)  
  • What Jay gets out of his job (8:36)  
  • The role of leaves (10:57)  
  • Some of Jay’s favorite trees (13:25)  
  • Emerald ash borer in Colorado (17:26)  


To find your local Davey office, check out our find a local office page to search by zip code.  

To learn more about managing leaves in your yard, read our blog, Managing Fallen Leaves in Your Yard. 

To learn more about using leaves for compost, read our blog, Compost Shredded, Dry Leaves to Get These Leaf Compost Benefits. 

To learn more about Emerald ash borer, read our blog, The 101 on Emerald Ash Borer.  

Connect with Davey Tree on social media:
Twitter: @DaveyTree
Facebook: @DaveyTree
Instagram: @daveytree
YouTube: The Davey Tree Expert Company
LinkedIn: The Davey Tree Expert Company

Have topics you'd like us to cover on the podcast? Email us at We want to hear from you! 

Doug Oster: Welcome to the Davey Tree Expert Company's Podcast, Talking Trees. I'm your host, Doug Oster. Each week, our expert arborists share advice on seasonal tree care, how to make your trees thrive, arborists' favorite trees, and much, much more. Tune in every Thursday to learn more because here at the Talking Trees podcast, we know trees are the answer. This week, I'm joined by Jay Judd. He's a district manager for the Davey Tree Expert Company in East Denver. Today we're talking all about loving your leaves. Jay, how are you?

Jay Judd: Good. How's it going today? Thanks for having me on.

Doug: I love the leaves as a source for compost, but I hate the leaves because I have to blow them off everything because I live in an oak forest. Let's talk about loving those leaves and what a resource they could actually be.

Jay: Yes. You've got a natural fertilizer there that you're bagging up and adding to a landfill. I heard once there's around 30 million tons of yard waste that goes into the landfill, and that comes out as a methane gas, that there's no oxygen there. Not only are you hurting the environment, it's like you're double hurting because you could be using that yard waste and putting it back into the soil for either your turf or your trees. Just mowing it over. Mowing it over, breaking it up, and leaving it there. That's what I like to do. I'm out in Colorado. Not as many leaves as other parts of the country. We've got a few trees on the property, but we're not in forests of leaves out here.

Doug: Yes, in my case, I do that. I run the mower over them, but in some cases, it's too thick and I've got to get them off. I never send mine to the curb, but I've got a place where I can put them. My house has been here since 1939, and somebody has been throwing those leaves over the edge of a hill. At the bottom of that hill where those leaves have been since 1939, you dig down in there that is some good stuff for gardening and for mulching and such.

Jay: Yes, with a lot of leaves, that's an option. When you have more than you can just spread out on the turf, doing a compost pile with it, mixing it with other stuff too, not just leaves, grass clippings, some stuff from the house, different leftover vegetables, stuff like that, cuttings. That'll make a quicker compost. It takes a while for the leaves to decompose by themselves.

Doug: How about shredded leaves as a mulch? Is that okay?

Jay: Yes, absolutely. It makes for a great ground cover, holds in moisture and then just like you were saying with that big leaf pile at the bottom of the hill, that just breaks up on the bottom side and add nutrients around the shrub, around a tree. It'll help keep weeds down too.

Doug: You brought up something interesting there about leaves. If it's just leaves, it takes a lot longer for them to break down. That's a great suggestion there to mix that up with other things. The leaves, it's just all carbon, it's all brown, but add some nitrogen in there and it'll break down a lot quicker, right?

Jay: Exactly. That's the science to it. Absolutely.

Doug: In Colorado, when is fall foliage?

Jay: The same as the rest of the country. We're looking at our nights. Each year is a little bit different depending on the weather. The aspen and the mountains is the sea. Everyone goes up and locally, they'll give the best viewing weekends. That should be coming up here in the next month where people will be flocking up there to see the aspen stands change. It's beautiful.

Doug: How does the season affect that color because every year it's different? What was your season like? What do you think your fall foliage is going to be?

Jay: When it's super, super dry, we don't get as much of the color. A few years ago in Colorado, we got a frost, so we didn't get any color in the city, which was super disappointing. All those brilliant reds, yellows on the maple trees, everything went to brown really quick. We have very unseasonal dry weather, and we have for the last few years so that really affects those brilliant colors. It may affect the aspens in the mountains, too. We'll see.

Doug: What are your favorite trees for fall color?

Jay: Out here, a popular tree is the autumn blaze maple. You're going to get a variety of color with that, as long as we don't get the frost, as long as we get enough moisture but the autumn blaze maple has got some great color to it. Yes, by far.

Doug: Then I heard that you do some craft projects with the kids, right?

Jay: Yes. Imprints with the leaves. Looking at the different leaves when they get, we have a lot of Japanese Beetle out here, so they can get skeletonized. That's going to give you a different imprint than a regular leaf, all the way down to just crushing leaves and putting them into a little jar and collecting them. [laughs]

Doug: Awesome. Tell me about the imprints. How do you do that?

Jay: They just put some ink or paint, or you put the paint on the paper, then put the leaf into it. People think of the stamping method, but the other way around is pretty fun.

Doug: I was thinking the same thing just the other day as we're coming up to fall, coming up to the leaves falling how much fun we used to have as kids in school doing that, identifying leaves and maybe putting them between, I think we used to put them between wax paper, that sort of thing. There's a lot of good lessons for kids to learn by doing that.

Jay: Yes, absolutely. I bring home little leaves and sticks for the kids all the time. Different diseases, insects are pretty cool. Hopefully, make my four-year-old an arborist by the time she's five. [laughs]

Doug: How did you become an arborist? What was your route?

Jay: Yes, I didn't start out trees. I started out computers and decided to get into the conservation core. I was out in Flagstaff, Arizona, doing just wildfire thinning. More on the pine felling side of things. I did some rock climbing down there too. Had a buddy come work for Davey in Denver and he said you get to climb and run a chainsaw all at once. I came out here about 15 years ago and started as a climber, and realized this is an industry that I wanted to make a career of. Davey is definitely taking care of me. There's a lot of different tree companies in the Denver area, but Davey was one that you could work your way up the ladder. You weren't just going to be a climber for the rest of your career if you worked here. As I got more involved and started loving the industry more, seemed like a good place to to work.

Doug: What about the fact that it's employee-owned? What does that mean for you? How does that connect with what you do?

Jay: No, absolutely, it does. It does. Being an employee-owner for 10 years, I can definitely see the difference. You don't want all your eggs in one basket, but it's a good place to tuck a little bit of your paycheck each week. So far history has shown it's been pretty good. It also feels good to tell clients that this is an employee-owned company. Everything that we do is a group. This is our company we are representing. There isn't someone over us that's making the decisions and that feels good. That's a comfortable feeling. I've never worked in an employee-owned company before.

Doug: Tell me a little bit about what you get out of your job in general, dealing with the clients. I know you have to manage also.

Jay: My job entails working one on one with the client, being a sales representative and managing the office as a whole. Coming from the field, working in the trees, climbing the trees, your body can handle that for so long. After about 10 years of that, I worked my way out of the field. I like having a job where I can get outside, work outside, talk with people, talk about what I love. The experience with working with the crews and managing the office, there's a lot of lessons there. I see myself and some of the other people that come in. I remember my first day. I remember my third year. I remember becoming a foreman.

It's really cool to see people grow in the industry. I like to think I feel their pain sometimes and understand where they're coming from. It's an exciting job. It's very diverse.

It's not the same office every day it is in the morning and the afternoon, but every backyard is a new office space for me to be hanging out in and enjoying Colorado. It's great.

Doug: I did an interview last year with a district manager, and he still has a 61-year-old climber working with him. Not everybody ages out, Jay.

Jay: I had a 67, he retired at 68. He retired four months ago. He loved working in the field. He didn't want to get into any role in management, which there's plenty of guys and girls out there that just want to do that with their career. For me, my body was feeling it, and I knew I also wanted to try out different aspects of the industry. That was my choice, my game plan.

Doug: When we're talking about love our leaves, talk a little bit about the role that leaves do have with the tree itself.

Jay: Yes. No, absolutely. Leaves are an important part of our society, not just the environment. Working in Denver, I'm in a city here, the value of having the trees it's more than just everybody knows that you get oxygen from leaves. The leaves, the trees, they help cool down some of these really urban environments. If you imagine it's nothing but buildings and pavement with no leaves just go into a parking lot, you feel that. You go into an area that's a park or something that has a lot of trees, you feel the difference there. Naturally, they cool off a place. They also just make people feel good. Seeing green, it's got a psychological effect.

You could look at leaves or trees or shrubs, but having the leaves around you feels a lot better. I think that's probably why people bring plants indoors to office spaces and then their houses. Leaves before they fall off the tree are pretty beneficial also.

Doug: It's interesting to see how each leaf is different. When you talked about working with your kids and doing those imprints, but that's a way we identify certain trees just by that shape of the leaf and the size of the leaf. I was walking through a forest the other day and there was lots of tulip trees. That leaf is just there's nothing else like it.

Jay: I'm proud to say the four year old was telling her mother, which was a white oak and which was a red oak last weekend, which my wife didn't even know. She was shocked [laughs].

Doug: I think you're going to have to get an application from Davey in the works here, because I couldn't tell you the difference between a red and a white oak by its leaf. Gee, that’s something.

Jay: Yes.

Doug: Before I let you go, I always like to ask arborists, and I always preface it with we know there's a lot of right tree, right place before we say anything about this. I'd like to talk about some of your favorite trees that when it's right, that you like add to a client's landscape and you're happy for them because you know this tree is going to be something special for them.

Jay: Yes, I like that you say when it's right [laughs], because in Colorado and Denver where we're at, none of the trees are native. There was a cottonwood by a creek, and that's it. At this elevation when you go up a little bit higher, you start seeing pine trees. One of everyone's favorite tree is an aspen tree, because we're in Colorado. Aspens aren't native at this elevation. You need to get up into the mountains until you start seeing them there. That's disappointing to a lot of clients because they're short-lived. You get about 20 years out of them. They are great. It's nice to see an aspen out your window, but just understanding that you're probably going to have to put a different tree in there in 10 years, maybe 20. For me, again, not native to where we are, I really like the red bud trees. In Colorado, they're not getting as large as other parts of the country where they're native. I really love the flower in the spring if we don't have a frost out here. I think peas growing off a tree is pretty interesting too. It's pretty unique [laughs].

Doug: With that red bud in your climate, how often does it not bloom?

Jay: [laughs] I would say it seems like every two years we get a frost here, which is good for people that have crab apple trees over their front walk. Then they don't have crab apples that year, but you lose the flower, so it's bitter sweet, I guess [laughs].

Doug: Yes, but it's bad for guys like me and the mid-Atlantic states that's how we see Magnolias about every other year.

Jay: Yes. It seems like the frost events are increasing either fall or spring out here. Same with the snow events in Colorado. Heavy wet snows after Mother's Day. A lot of leaves have already popped out. Trees have that surface area to really grab that snow and break.

Doug: What's the latest you've ever, when you've been there, the latest you've ever seen snow?

Jay: I think more interesting is the earliest was September one year. Yes. We would have had a snow already. Don't quote me, maybe six years ago, we would have seen our first snow. Then it goes back to 80 degrees for a month, and then 70 and we don't see snow until March again [laughs]. The weather's a bit funky out here, for sure. I grew up in Connecticut, so 20 years in Connecticut, 20 years out west. I'd like to say I'm more of a Coloradoan at this point, but the forest is going back home is claustrophobic for me [laughs], driving down the roads compared to out here [laughs].

Doug: Do me a favor. Give me one more tree and then I'll let you go.

Jay: Yes. We touched on it before, but the autumn blaze, it's a pretty tree. It's fast growing. The temperature swings affect them, but they're a good shade tree to put in. Ash used to do really good out here. We're dealing with the emerald ash for now. Unfortunately, that's not an option to plant. I would say for a quicker growing shade tree that's got good color and will give you some of that shade in the evening on the west side, autumn blaze maple. Yes.

Doug: You brought it up. Now I got to go deep into emerald ash borer. Now they decimated our area here. We have basically zero ashes left. Where are you guys and what is the prognosis?

Jay: Yes, I think we learned a lot from you guys. Denver jumped on doing the programs called Be a Smart Ash. That came out almost eight years ago, maybe a little bit more when it was found in Boulder. The city of Denver hasn't seen emerald ash Borer yet. It hasn't been announced. Geographically, between Boulder, where it came, where it started in Colorado and Denver, we're about halfway here. It's the last place they've found it, or the most recent place, so halfway between. The preventatives, I mean, the city of Denver has great programs. They were even giving people other trees to get rid of some of the ash on their property.

They do trunk injections on right away trees, city trees. There's incentives for people with ash to do something else. That started eight years ago, and you got to think it's not here yet. Boulder still has ash trees. It's now Chicago there, and it's been there for quite a while. I think the lessons learned from cities that were early on in the attacks, other cities have taken the forestry departments and a company like Davey, who is on the front lines in some of the cities, we can take this and bring it to other cities. We've been educated from that. Yes.

Doug: As somebody who spends their life working with trees, when something like this comes around, how do you feel about it? What are you thinking? I'm amazed that they started this program so early. That is phenomenal because when it hit here, we didn't know anything. We didn't know what they were going to do. We didn't know how bad it was going to get and it got bad. How do you look at it as a professional somebody who works with trees professionally every day.

Jay: Yes, frustrating would be the word for multiple reasons. You don't want to lose a tree. The education side with clients. Some people

really loved their large front yard ash tree, but they just maybe think it's hokey to be paying money to do something to it when there's no insect at their neighbor's house yet but it's a preventative A healthy ash tree is going to have a pretty good success rate with it. Some of these people invest a lot of money into their ash in other ways, so that part's frustrating. I think we're getting very close in the next few years to Denver starting to see it and getting on getting on board with doing injects in the next couple years would be good for people that live in Denver at least.

Doug: All right, Jay. I'm going to let you go I kept you a little longer than I told you I was, but you brought up that awful emerald ash board. I was very interested to hear what you're doing there. I think it's always an awful thing when we have an invasive like that but it seems like you guys are ready to fight which is great.

Jay: Yes, no, it is.

Doug: All right. Jay. Thanks again. Thanks for all the great information. That was fun. Appreciate your time.

Jay: Thanks much. I appreciate you having me on the podcast.

Doug: That's the lesson love your leaves and don't send them to the landfill Tune in every Thursday to the Talking Trees podcast from the Davey tree expert company. I'm your host Doug Oster. Next week our friend Chelsea Abbott is back. There's fungus among us. Sorry. I just had to do that. She'll discuss different ways to deal with fungal issues and do me a favor, subscribe to the podcast so that you'll never miss an episode, and as always we like to remind you on the Talking Trees podcast, trees are the answer.

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