Drop the Rake: 5 Reasons You Should Leave the Leaves this Autumn

Drop the Rake: 5 Reasons You Should Leave the Leaves this Autumn,

Drop the Rake: 5 Reasons You Should Leave the Leaves this Autumn,


Put down that rake. You don’t need it – well, you do need it but not as much as you think.

Want to spend more time this fall with your family, or watching football? Leave the leaves where they fall. When you bag up your leaves you are throwing away a valuable resource for your backyard. So don’t waste them, keep them!

How does leaving leaves help your backyard

1.Leaves Create Homes for Wildlife.

Many different critters use fallen leaves a winter homes. Leaving that layer of leaves in place lets these creatures hide for the winter in safety. Fallen leaves are used by box turtles, chipmunks, salamanders, frogs and toads as winter hideouts. Also, many types of butterflies and moths overwinter as pupa in fallen leaves. Think of these pupa as bird food for next spring! If you rake up all the leaves, you removed these pupa and will miss out on all the butterflies in the spring.

The National Wildlife Foundation puts it this way, “a leaf layer several inches deep is a natural thing in any area where trees naturally grow. The leaf layer is its own mini ecosystem.”

The leaf layer is its own mini ecosystem. Click To Tweet

2.Leaves are free mulch and fertilizer you don’t have to buy.

Yes, saving your leaves also saves you money! Leaves on top of the soil are a natural barrier to weeds. Think of all the money you spend on shredded bark mulch every year – leaves do the same thing, and you already have them.

Leaving the leaves also creates fertilizer. As the leaves decompose they add nutrients back to the soil. These nutrients are trace minerals that the trees pulled from deep in the soil, and you are bringing it to the top.  It is a natural slow release fertilizer that won’t burn your plants that you don’t have to buy. And, unlike store fertilizers, leaves also help sandy soil hold water after a rain and lightens heavy clay soils. It saves you money on water too!

“Leaving your leaves in your yard saves you money on fertilizer, mulch and water!”

Drop the Rake: 5 Reasons You Should Leave the Leaves this Autumn

Leaves are a natural mulch.

3.Leaving leaves reduces pollution.

Leaf removal is not an environmentally friendly process. Removal by blower is noisy (noise pollution), and uses fossil fuels. Bagging up the leaves adds to the pollution. Leaves sent to the landfill are taken by trucks which pollute AND the leaves do not break down naturally within the landfill. Each year about 33 million tons of leaves are taken to landfills and in the process of breaking down creates methane. This further pollutes the air.

4.Leaving leaves protects plants during winter.

I use leaves to protect the roots of my more delicate plants. I pile them up in the fall around the plant and remove them in the spring. A 6 inch layer of shredded leaves can protect tender plants from a cold winter. It’s a great way to be able to grow some plants that may not make it in your zone.

A 6 inch layer of shredded leaves can protect plants from a cold winter. Click To Tweet

5.Leaving leaves saves you time.

Last but not least, leaving the leaves is a great time saver. Think of all the time you will have to do other things, things that don’t involve a rake. Go out and enjoy the fall weather!

If you just have to rake those leaves, don’t send them to the landfill!  

What should you do with the leaves you do rake?

First, use a rake not a blower. Leaf blowers are loud and use fossil fuels. Listen to nature around you as you rake, and get some exercise.

If you are worried leaves will smother your lawn before spring (unlikely unless you have less robust grass types) consider taking them directly into the garden or flowerbeds. There they will be a natural mulch, smothering weeds AND will fertilize the soil as they breakdown over the winter. And they are free! Or you can run them over with the lawn mower. Shredded leaves to not damage the lawn.

Make a pile in an unused corner to decompose over time. This makes leaf mold which is amazing to add to gardens  (pile in corner of yard, dampen his hose, let it sit for 6 months to a year).

Or you can add to the compost bin to make soil.

You can also get rid of you leaves by giving them away. Many gardeners will take leaves for use in their own backyards. Some neighborhoods have special pickup for composting. If you can’t find someone, try an ad on a local message board, or on Craigslist.

Leaves also make a great brush shelter for wildlife that can be used by dragonflies, salamanders, lizards, butterflies, rabbits, turtles, juncos and sparrows, and woodpeckers.

So this fall, leave those leaves! Your backyard wildlife will thank you.

What do you plan on doing with your leaves this fall – tell me in the comments!

Paige Nugent

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