The National Wildlife Federation suggests leaving the leaves that fall on your yard in Autumn right where they are in an online article. They sight the benefits to everything from soil nutrition and landfill waste reduction, to a host of small and medium sized animals for whom the fallen leaves provide a habitat.
Foregoing the rake entirely seems to good to be true, but Helen Muntz, the horticulture educator for Utah State University Extension in Cache County, told UPR that it may actually be good for your yard.
“You know most of the time when we mow our lawns we have a bag so all of those grass clippings get collected into the bag. Well, it’s actually very good practice to let that all fall back into the soil just like the leaves because it adds more nutrients and organic matter which is great for a lawn. So that’s what I mean when I’m talking mulch - you’re returning it back into the soil, in small pieces,” said Muntz.
In many cities, bagged leaves go to a landfill where they breakdown differently than they would if they were left in your yard, creating harmful greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Other cities however, have green waste programs that compost yard trimmings. For instance, in Logan, UT all leaf litter collected by the city is composted and the resulting soil can be purchased for about $40 per truck-load. Still, there’s nothing wrong with leaving the leaves in your yard.
The best practice according to Muntz:
“If you leave your leaves what you want to do is get your mower out and mulch them. Mulching them helps because it breaks them up into small pieces that are much quicker to break down and be great organic matter fertilizer for your lawn. So that is a great way to avoid the rake. It’s much easier. That’s how I do it. If you have just big trees that produce tons and tons of leaves and you don’t want to mow twice a week then you can just bag it up and it’s great for compost, if you do any composting. If you have a vegetable garden you can just dump all your leaves in the garden there and let them break down over winter.”