You’ve noticed leaves beginning to fall in your yard, and you’re probably already dreading the work of raking them up and disposing of them. But wait! Science says you may not have to do this after all.
Raking and hauling away fallen leaves is a seasonal tradition in many households — a task parents eagerly delegate to the kids once they’re old enough, but a task that must be done regardless. Actually though, the National Wildlife Federation says it’s not a bad idea to keep fallen leaves where they lay.
Why? Because science. Shedding leaves is part of a tree’s natural life cycle. There are benefits to leaving those discarded leaves on the ground, covering your tree’s roots, in your garden or along your fence line. Here are a few reasons you might want to skip raking the lawn this fall:
Critters. Some wildlife, like salamanders, chipmunks, worms, turtles, toads and shrews, use that natural leaf layer as a winter home and shelter or to find food during the cold months.
Even more critters. Many species of moths and butterflies lay eggs on leaves. Those offspring become pupae and spend the winter on the fallen leaves, where they prepare to emerge in the spring. Getting rid of the leaves will likewise get rid of next year’s crop of butterflies and moths, many of which are important food sources for the birds you love to watch in your yard.
Natural mulch. Another cool thing about a natural leaf layer is that it eventually breaks down, or decomposes, creating a layer of natural mulch that will help suppress weeds as well as fertilize the soil. The best place to let this happen is up for debate, though.
There is a concern that leaving a seemingly impermeable layer of leaves on your entire lawn can damage or destroy your turf by reducing light and air and encouraging growth of lawn-destroying fungi. According to Mississippi State University, you might want to mulch fallen leaves yourself so they can settle down to the soil naturally. However, this doesn’t mean you have to scrape up every last errant leaf you find — there are other parts of your yard that won’t be harmed by fallen leaves, which can lead to a more robust ecosystem on your property.
The good news is that if you can cross a comprehensive yard rake off your to-do list, you’ll be able to spend that much more time doing the fall activities you love, and these are all even more amazing reasons to keep leaves in your yard.
Kids love to play in them. Even if you have raked up leaves to deposit elsewhere in the past, you know that kids adore playing in the leaves, so you almost always leave some for them to pile up for a traditional fall leaf-jumping activity. If there are even more leaves on your ground, playtime will be endless.
More time spent with family. Relegating this chore to nature means you’ll have a few extra Saturdays to do amazing things with your family. Visit an orchard, take a drive to revel at fall scenery, visit grandparents or do some cozy fall camping.
Enjoy your own scenery. You can spend some extra time just lounging in your yard without the specter of yard work hanging over your head.
So put down that rake, and enjoy your family this fall season.