For years now we (that’s a royal we) have not raked leaves in the fall.
Some years they were left in place untouched until spring due to my own health issues (nothing gets done around here unless I plan and organize the job). Some years, we did something a little different:
Mowed the leaves and left in place.
As a final mowing (my yard is mowed no more than 6 times each summer season), the yard is mowed chopping up the leaves. But even that is not recommended. It might be better to wait until spring to mow those leaves.
In his article Scientists Urge: Don’t Rake Your Leaves! – Here’s Why, David Wolfe cites the National Wildlife Federation’s recommendation that readers not rake up and throw away leaf litter. Here is Wolfe’s summary of the benefits of leaving leaves in place:
Leaf litter provides habitat for creatures (small, smaller and smallest), nourishes the soil, and not raking keeps leaves out of landfills, reduces carbon emissions (no leaf blowers, please — hate those things), and gives you more time to do other things.
Les Harrison, UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension Director, in Leaf Litter: Do the Benefits Outweigh the Work?, discusses the benefits of allowing leaves to remain in place:
- moisture retention from precipitation
- stormwater runoff slowdown
- availability of nutrients for organisms and soil as they are broken down
Although his article mentions the year-round drop of leaves in Florida, the science behind his recommendations apply to all parts of the country.
We do rake leaves off of the driveway because they are quite slippery and make it more difficult to remove snow in the winter months. But those leaves are raked into areas nearby beneath shrubs and trees so their nutrition is not lost to the environment.
Rethinking fall chores is easy: just don’t rake those leaves!