Why You Shouldn’t Rake Your Leaves This Fall

Allowing fallen leaves to remain on the ground can be beneficial for local wildlife and the environment as a whole. Colorful Leaves by MelisaTG via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Ben Taub 16 Nov 2015, 20:48

The auburn hues of fall may make for one of the most spectacular natural events of the year in certain parts, although they also mark a seasonal increase in yard work for lawn enthusiasts the world over. However, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has now come up with the perfect reason not to bother raking any leaves this year, suggesting that foregoing the battle against decomposing foliage could benefit the environment, local wildlife, and even the state of your lawn.

According to a NWF blog post, autumn leaves create a mini ecosystem that provides a home for a whole host of cute critters, including box turtles and chipmunks. At the same time, layers of decomposing leaves tend to harbor large quantities of butterfly pupae. By getting rid of these, you risk depriving birds of a vital food source in the form of caterpillars in the spring, while also denying yourself the company of the butterflies themselves later in the year.

Those who wish to look at the situation from a more selfish perspective will also find reason to put the rake away, as the NWF insists that allowing the decomposing matter to remain on the ground creates a natural mulch that fertilizes the soil and improves its overall health. 

By giving the gardening a miss, you could also be doing the whole world a solid, as yard debris is responsible for 13 percent of all solid waste in the U.S. When this organic matter decomposes in landfill sites, the lack of oxygen causes anaerobic microbes to thrive, breaking down the leaves and releasing greenhouse gases like methane, all of which has a negative impact on the atmosphere. In contrast, when left on the ground, autumn leaves turn to compost via aerobic decomposition, which produces much friendlier by-products like water and carbon dioxide.

This advice from the NWF will no doubt be welcomed by everyone who loathes clearing their yard during fall, and there’s even more good news on that front from the RSPCA, which advises against tidying garden borders and shrubs, as these provide vital refuge for a range of insects.

Main image credit: Colorful Leaves by MelisaTG via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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