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Leave the Leaves!

Yellow brick Chicago bungalow with lawn covered in orange and red fall leaves
Chicago bungalow in Fall (

You’re not lazy or a bad neighbor if you don’t clean up your leaves. Leaving the leaves in some cases is more beneficial for the health of your lawn or garden, wallet, time and the environment.

Raking leaves by hand can be labor intensive and time consuming. Using leaf blowers to remove leaves burns fossil fuels and creates noise pollution. But, leaving the leaves in your lawn adds agricultural diversity, nutrients, and moisture to your soil. As the leaves decompose, the natural mulch fertilizer created will make your plants thrive next season, saving you time and money in the Spring.

Some things to consider before you rake:

Where are the leaves?

If the leaves fall on any hardscapes or walkways, they should be removed to prevent dangerous or slippery walking conditions if it rains or snows. These leaves can be transferred to your lawn, garden beds or compost pile instead of moving them to the street to be taken to the landfill.

Are the leaves smothering your plants?

This is the main reason people are taught to remove leaves in the first place. However, this is only a problem for small plants and large amounts of leaves. Leaving the leaves on planting beds with bigger plants or bulbs that are dormant for the winter can help suppress weeds and protect the plants. As for your lawn, smother it! Leaving the leaves layered across the lawn enriches the soil and creates insulation for hibernating insects.

If you do want to remove the leaves for aesthetic reasons, wait till they are crunchy and you can mow them into smaller pieces, rake them into garden beds, or mound them at the base of trees to still reap the benefits of a natural, free mulch.

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