To rake, or not to rake?

Lots of articles and blogs advocate for the "leave it" method of leaf removal. Any advice that advocates skipping yard chores is sure to be heard, but let’s take a closer look so that you understand exactly where and why this is not bad advice, and where it’s a terrible idea.

Yes, leaving fallen leaves to decompose does return valuable nutrients to the soil, provides habitat for lots of important and valuable insect species over winter, and acts as a natural mulch. There is one place you do NOT want to just leave your leaves: your lawn.

The only way to leave the leaves on your lawn is to chop them finely with a mulching mower or a leaf shredder, or shred them in a trash can with a string trimmer, then return them to the lawn.

You cannot leave a layer of fallen leaves as-is on your lawn…unless you want to have to do a lot of lawn repair next year. Layers of leaves block sunlight and trap excess moisture against the lawn, resulting in bare patches come spring.

It’s also a good idea to keep layers of leaves off of beds of fall- and winter-interest plantings like pansies for the same reason. A thick layer blocks sun and risks disease in wet weather. Rule of thumb: if you can’t see the plants underneath, the leaves are probably going to cause a problem.

Yet there are plenty of places where you can leave the leaves. You can leave leaves in wooded areas, on mulched areas, under shrubs and around perennials as long as you think of them like mulch: not built up too thickly (3-4” at most) and not piled up against stems and trunks. You should probably think twice about thick layers of leaves if you have vole problems-voles can burrow under the leaves and wreak havoc in your garden over the winter.

The main argument for removing leaves from everywhere but the lawn is purely aesthetic-most people prefer the clean look of traditional mulches. But leaving leaves and mulching over top of them in spring is an acceptable and ecologically safe option. Still need lawn help? Rooted In Nature offers high-quality, professional and timely lawn and landscape services with a smile. Contact us at 443-846-0199 or info@rootedinnaturemd.com.

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