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Leave the Leaves!

It’s nearing that time of year again where many of us will be busting out our rakes and leaf blowers, and spending countless hours of time to get the leaves off our yard and onto the tree lawn. From there, the leaves will eventually get sucked into a giant truck and taken to a place to be composted or, possibly in some cases, bagged and thrown away. So why go through all that trouble raking and blowing leaves when you can just leave the leaves?

The first time I heard someone mention the idea about leaving the leaves was a college professor of mine (more than 10 years ago at this point), who said to our class that he would rake a good portion of the leaves from his yard and into his gardens. The remaining leaves, he would just… well, leave.

Why leave the leaves? Well, just like in a forest, leaving the leaves on your lawn benefits wildlife, and mulching the leaves into your lawn provides free fertilizer. I observed this for the first time one spring day several years ago after leaving the leaves over the winter in the garden at my parent’s house. While prepping the garden for the season, I saw hundreds of insects that had all taken shelter underneath the leaves during winter. Intrigued by the array of insects I was seeing, I studied this habitat a bit longer, and it was at that moment where I thought I’d better stop prepping the garden, because nature is already doing the work for me.

So what’s my recommendation? I understand there are houses with one small tree, and others with several big trees. I understand that leaves, if left un-touched, will likely blow to neighboring yards. My recommendation would be that if there is an excessive amount of leaves, and maybe over half the leaves appear to be off the trees, go ahead and rake them on the tree lawn. Be careful not to rake them into the street as leaves should not go down a storm drain. When the remaining leaves do fall, just leave them, or pull out the lawn mower one last time and mulch them into your lawn. If you do only have a small tree and the neighboring properties are basically in the same situation, then consider just leaving or mulching the leaves. For anyone who has a garden, I highly recommend leaving the leaves in the garden and enjoy what nature has provided for you, or at least wait until after Mother’s Day to clean the leaves out of the garden to allow time for the over-wintering insects to come out of hibernation.

Blog Author: Chris Vasco, Urban Technician

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