Leave Your Leaves This Fall

October 4th, 2016 No Comments

Leaves are good for your yard and good for wildlife!

By Lorna Patrick, Friends of the Lake

Reviewed: 11/5/2018

It’s an autumnal ritual, countless weekend hours spent raking and bagging leaves. Maybe you enjoy losing your entire autumn to this activity. But, if you are like most people, you’d rather be doing lots of other things. The good news is, there are other ways to responsibly deal with leaves, without killing your grass, without drawing unwanted attention from the neighbors or HOA.
Which of the following leaf solutions might work for you?

Mow Them
Mowing leaves is the absolute best way to deal with leaves on grass. Set your mulching mower to a three-inch height and mow over leaves where they lie on your lawn. Do not use a bag! Mulching mowers grind the leaves into little pieces that will disappear from view. As these tiny bits break down during the winter, they return important nutrients and organic matter to the soil.
Adding organic matter, such as ground-up leaves, to your lawn helps improve the soil and prevent compaction. Any expert will tell you–healthy soil is key to a healthy lawn. Some research has even shown that after three years of leaving mowed leaves on the lawn, there can be an almost 100% reduction in crabgrass and other weeds!

Leave Them
In some situations, it makes sense to leave some leaves where they fall. If you have wooded areas on your lot, do as nature does and let the fallen leaves stay where they are. Think about what a healthy forest looks like, with its thick “duff layer” of decaying leaves, bark, needles, and twigs. This layer of decomposing plant matter also contributes to the health of our lakes and streams by absorbing rain water and preventing erosion. This leaf layer is also beneficial for wildlife. Butterflies and moths spend the winter as pupae in leaf litter. The leaf layer provides shelter for reptiles and amphibians. And, some birds use leaf litter for foraging and as a source of material to build nests.

Pile Them Up
Pile up leaves on garden and flower beds. Doing so will help nourish the soil and suppress weeds in the spring. There is no reason to buy soil conditioners and herbicides! A think pile of leaves also helps insulate perennials and those potted plants that never made it into the ground (despite your best intentions) from cold winter temperatures.

Compost Them
Home improvement stores sell composted leaves, which begs the question: Why send your leaves to the dump in the fall, only to buy composted leaves in the spring? Make simple cages out of wire to corral the leaves for the winter. There are ways to speed the composting process along, such as grinding the leaves into small bits and aerating the pile on a regular basis. A leaf vacuum can make quick work of picking up leaves, grinding them, and dumping them into a compost cage. Learn more about composting from this brochure from Frederick County.

This fall, turn over a new leaf and leave them be!


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