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You don’t need to rake your leaves. Experts explain why

Fall is upon us, and it could mean that the leaves in your garden are starting to change color and fall to the ground.

But if you were intending to add garden raking and leaf bagging to your weekend to-do list, think again. Experts say raking and removing leaves can be worse for your garden – and the planet, too.

Leaving at least some of the leaves in your garden can help fertilize your grass and other plants, provide animal shelter, and even reduce emissions from landfills. Here’s what you need to know about managing leaves on your lawn this fall.

How can leaves help my garden?

Fallen leaves can be used as a natural fertilizer for plants, David Mizejewski, a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation, told USA TODAY.

“The leaves fall around the root zone of these plants, where they do things like prevent weeds or other plants from growing that would otherwise rival trees and shrubs,” he said.

“They slowly decompose and compost right at the base of the shrub’s tree, just above its root zone, where they return nutrients that the plant can then recycle and reuse next spring,” he said. -he declares.

And mowing your lawn can break up leaves and bring nutrients to your lawn, according to Maxim Schlossberg, associate professor of turf nutrition and soil fertility at Penn State.

“Because they are smaller, they are more quickly dismantled and broken down by microorganisms. And the whole process of recycling those nutrients back into the soil happens faster, ”he said.

Why shouldn’t I wrap the leaves?

If you’re used to raking up dead leaves in your garden, bagging them and then throwing them away, you might want to think again this fall.

According to data from the US Environmental Protection Agency, in 2018 landfills received around 10.5 million tonnes of garden waste, including leaves.

Mizejewski explained that leaves and other organic material sent to landfills can decompose and form methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

“At this time of year, unfortunately, a huge volume of leaves is just going to sit in these landfills and produce all this terrible greenhouse gas,” he said. “The more we can keep this organic material out of the landfill, the better.”

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How are my leaves affecting the local environment?

The leaf layer in your garden around trees and other plants is “really important wildlife habitat,” according to Mizejewski, forming “a whole ecosystem in and of itself.”

“There are probably thousands of different species that actually live in this layer of leaves,” he said. “Most of them are invertebrates, so think of everything from earthworms to little woodlice and all kinds of little critters that live in that layer of leaves. But also higher in the food chain, salamanders, toads, box turtles, shrews and chipmunks ”

Caterpillars also often find a home in the layers of leaves, which provide food for birds.

“So what if you get rid of every last leaf on your property? You just swept, bagged and dumped the food source the birds will need to feed their babies, ”Mizejewski said.

Schlossberg also warned that if you plan on blowing leaves from your garden on the street, it can disrupt local drains and waters.

“When you have foreign debris, it can clog the grates, which can prevent water from draining off the street surface,” he said.

The leaves can also be found in streams and rivers where drains lead. This can affect water quality and “sensitive species adapted to these rivers,” according to Schlossberg.

“It’s kind of like a dump, if you will, even though it’s natural organic material,” he said. “It still persists and can be problematic. “

Can I ever pick up leaves?

If the leaves on your lawn form a carpet on your lawn, experts agree that you can move them when the weather gets colder across the country.

Mizejewski recommended placing the leaves in garden beds or raking them into a bigger pile and letting them “compost naturally there and decompose.”

“Don’t get rid of every last leaf that falls on your property, if you can. There are some great and easy things to do with them, ”he said.

Schlossberg urged people to pick up the leaves or break them with a lawn mower if you expect snow soon.

“Once there’s snow, you’re not going to mow, and that snow is going to really make that carpet easier, and that blanket is going to keep the leaves from being blown around by the winds. really want to avoid it, ”he said. noted.

But whatever you plan to do with the leaves on your lawn, experts say to consider the plants and animals in your garden and the environment in general.

“We each have the opportunity to take this personal action and think about how our own little piece of land, our own yards or our own gardens in our neighborhoods or communities, are all opportunities for us to do something. good for nature, ”said Mizejewski.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Raking the Leaves This Fall? Don’t, experts explain why

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.

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