5 Benefits of Leaving Leaves on Your Lawn

by Team eLocal
A red rake leans on a moss-covered maple tree as fallen maple leaves are strewn over the grass. It's a scene of autumn in Canada.

Do you have to rake leaves? Removing leaves from your lawn can be a real chore, so you might be pleased to learn that there are several good reasons to leave leaves where they lie.

A layer of leaves could benefit the environment and your lawn — if you don't mind the appearance. That said, there are some occasions where you might need to get the rake out.

5 Good Reasons to Leave Leaves on the Ground

1. Provides Natural Habitats

According to the National Wildlife Federation, leaving leaves on the ground provides a natural habitat for various creatures, including salamanders and chipmunks. Many butterflies and moths — including 94% of native moth species — rely on leaf layers to overwinter and lay their eggs.

Furthermore, around 94% of backyard bird species require moth caterpillars as a food source, and even certain bat species overwinter in leaf layers for warmth. Raking up leaves in your garden over the winter deprives local wildlife of habitats and food supplies.

2. Reduces Landfill Waste

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that around 10.5 million tons of yard waste, including raked leaves, ended up in landfills in 2018. Decomposing landfill waste is a significant source of environmental methane, which is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Leaving leaves on the ground can also help reduce pressure on landfill sites.

3. Free Mulch

Over time, leaves on the ground decompose and turn into a natural mulching material that releases nutrients into your lawn and flowerbeds. These nutrients can help your grass and other plants stay healthy. A mulch layer also makes it harder for weeds to flourish and reduces water evaporation, so you won't need to water or weed your garden as often.

4. Reduces Pollution

Leaf blowers may be a convenient and low-effort alternative to raking your lawn, but they can be bad news for the environment. Leaf blowers often require fossil fuels to operate, releasing greenhouse gases. They're also noisy, which could make them unpopular with your neighbors. If you're unable to rake leaves by hand, leaving them in place causes less environmental and noise pollution than using a leaf blower.

5. Less Time and Effort

Raking leaves can be backbreaking work, and keeping your lawn leaf-free is a time-consuming project. Leaving leaves on the ground can save you significant time and energy while doing local wildlife and the environment a favor.

When Should You Rake Leaves?

Just like any other plant, your lawn requires sunlight to grow. A thick layer of leaves over your lawn or flowerbeds could block sunlight and stop your grass and other plants from growing well. Therefore, it may be worth giving your lawn the occasional rake if you notice your grass looking less healthy than usual.

Snow mold is a fungal disease that can cause white, damaged patches on your lawn or even kill areas of grass. Allowing a thick layer of leaves to develop over your lawn increases the risk of snow mold flourishing, especially in cold weather. You may be better off raking your lawn if you have a grass variety that's susceptible to snow mold.

Finally, raking could benefit your lawn by removing dead grass (thatch) and allowing air to permeate the grass. However, you'll need a specialized thatching rake to remove every layer of thatch from your lawn.

Cutting up the leaves on your lawn with a blade mower could be a solution if you're worried about a leaf layer damaging the grass. Cutting the leaves into smaller pieces will allow more sunlight through and reduce the risk of snow mold while maintaining wildlife habitats and mulching benefits.

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