What You Don’t Know About Fall Leaves


Raking and bagging fall leaves is the worst. Just when you think the job is done, a windstorm brings down more leaves or blows your neighbors’ leaves to your yard. But leaves aren’t all bad — it turns out, they play an important role in an environmentally responsible lifestyle.

What do you do with all those fall leaves?

If you live in a town that picks up loose leaves and has a composting program, consider yourself lucky. Unfortunately, we don’t live in your town.

In the past, we’ve either paid a lawn service to pick up the leaves and cart them away (hopefully to compost), or we hauled dozens of bags of leaves to the curb. Neither option made us very happy. The lawn service costs money. But bagging our leaves always felt wrong because of the sheer volume of plastic bags we sent to the landfill — our record was 84 bags.

Despite composting efforts in many communities, the EPA estimates we still send more than 34 million tons of yard debris to landfills each year. The ridiculous thing about putting our leaves in a landfill is that they can actually be really good for your lawn and the environment.

Fall leaves can help your lawn

If you want a green lawn, you can’t just leave thick piles of leaves on your yard. Mold and moisture kills the grass. However, mowing over the leaves with a mulching mower is an environmentally sound way to reduce yard waste and fertilize your lawn naturally.

Mulching your fall leaves has several benefits, including:

  • Leaves are full of nitrogen and other nutrients that are good for your lawn and tree growth.
  • Some leaves naturally prevent weed growth, which means fewer chemicals to kill weeds and a naturally healthier lawn.
  • Dry, fallen leaves are part of the natural habitat for many types of insects. Leaving them where they are is less disruptive to the natural ecosystem.
  • It’s less backbreaking to walk behind a self-propelled lawn mower several times than to rake and rake leaves.

If the mulch left behind is too deep and covers the grass, consider starting a compost pile or adding it to your garden beds. You can also pile leaf mulch up around the base of the trees to help strengthen their roots.

Being good stewards of fall leaves

It feels pointless to spend so much time thinking about fall leaves. But it’s the small, simple things that make a difference.

For the first time ever, we avoided taking any plastic bags to the curb this year. And we didn’t pay anyone a dime to do our fall cleanup. Sure, we walked behind a mower more frequently than we were used to. But it was a much more enjoyable fall cleanup for the whole family.

Still have fall leaves that need to be cleaned up? Try mulching your leaves this year. You’ll demonstrate your commitment to the environment in a way that helps your lawn and your pocketbook.


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