Should You Leave Fall Leaves?

Autumn is here and that means leaves are likely falling all over your yard. You are probably thinking about breaking out the rake and buying some leaf bags, but before you spend money and put in the time, consider this: you don’t actually have to rake all of the leaves on your lawn. 

It’s true! When people rake their fallen leaves they generally end up in a landfill. According to the EPA, yard trimmings—including those leaves you were thinking about raking up—created about 34.7 million tons of waste in 2015. While in landfills, leaves can break down with other organic matter to create methane—a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change—and no one wants that. 

On the other hand, if you don’t spend the whole day raking leaves, what options do you have? Turns out, plenty. 

Mulching leaves with a mulching mower should be your first step if you decide not to rake all of your leaf drop. A mulching mower chops up leaves into smaller pieces, called leaf litter so that they can break down and return nitrogen to the soil, feeding your grass. This layer of natural mulch can also suppress weeds, keeping weed seeds from germinating. Mulching by mowing can be done when there are wet or dry leaves, but raking should only be done with dry leaves. The same can be done with grass clippings. Leaving them behind when you mow is a great natural fertilizer that won’t pollute waterways and acts as natural lawn care.

Have a thick layer of leaves? Rake some of them over to your garden bed before mowing. Flower beds will appreciate the natural layer of mulch and weed prevention. Don’t make TOO thick of a layer though, you still want the airflow to prevent fungus from growing. 

Another thing you can do with leaves instead of sending them to the landfill is to create a compost pile in your yard. You can put vegetable food waste, grass clippings, and leaves in the pile and help create nutrient-rich compost to aid in gardening next spring. 

Finally, according to the National Wildlife Federation, leaving the leaves also helps birds, butterflies, and moths. Birds raid the litter for food for babies, and moths and butterflies pupate in leaf litter.