Leave those Leaves!
Before you start raking those leaves, here are some things to consider in leaving them on your yard. There are many benefits to keeping your leaves on your lawn instead of raking and piling them up. Leaves act as a natural fertilizer for your yard and you won’t have to spend money on expensive fertilizers. As they slowly break down, the nutrients in them help the grass and other plants stay healthy. Leaves are also habitats for bugs in the winter months. Caterpillars, which later metamorphosize into butterflies, live in leaf litter and when they are raked away, they no longer have a place to stay. There are many other species of bugs and insects that live in the leaves which bring food for birds as well.
Another benefit to keeping the leaves in your yard is to keep them out of landfills and waterways. The EPA estimates that in 2015, yard trimmings generated equated to 34.7 million tons which was 13.3% of the municipal solid waste generation. Yard trimmings include grass, brush and leaves and they estimate that 25% of the yard trimmings is leaves alone. Landfills received about 10.8 million tons of the yard trimmings, and that means about 2.7 million tons of leaves went to landfills.
As mentioned earlier, it is beneficial to keep leaves out of the waterways. While leaves are good nutrients for your yard, they do not carry the same purpose in creeks, streams, and rivers. Excessive decaying leaves take the oxygen from the water and doesn’t leave enough for wildlife. Also, the nutrients and gases produced from the decaying leaves act as pollutants to the water and wildlife. Nutrients in leaves can create algae blooms which are harmful and toxic to human health and aquatic ecosystems.
Leaves that are piled by the streets are more likely to get swept away by rainwater into the sewer systems creating even more problems. Leaves in storm drains, sewer pipes, and sewer systems create clogs in the system leading too increased chances of flooding. As they travel through the pipes, leaves also go to the Water Reclamation Facility and get stuck in the grates. In this case someone must clean all the leaves out of the grates to keep them from causing a clog.
In conclusion, the most beneficial thing you can do with your leaves is keep them on your lawn for the added nutrients and to help keep them away from the streets, so they aren’t in the waterways. If the leaves pile up it is advised to mow over them to create more of a mulch in your yard. Greener yards will be in your future!