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Experts say you shouldn't bag your leaves this year

By Michael Martin,

2022-10-28
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Experts are making it known this year that you don't necessarily have to rake and bag the leaves in your yard.

While we've been conditioned in the Midwest to spend hours every week during the fall raking, bagging and dragging our leaves into the roadway, it can actually be better for your lawn to leave some leaves on it.

There are several reasons why you might consider leaving your leaves alone this year: “Leaves are not litter. Leaves are just a natural thing that happens,” said Julie Batty, the land stewardship manager for Blandford Nature Center in Grand Rapids. “If you've got a relatively thin layer of leaves, that's okay. The sun can still get through there.”

You don't want them to build up to the point where they create a thick, mushy layer that blocks off all sun, but a thin layer will actually help your lawn.

"As those leaves biodegrade, you've got some natural fertilizer," Batty explained.

If the leaves in your yard do start to get excessive, just run your lawn mower over them. Chopping them up a bit will let that sun in, and allow the small pieces of leaves to act as a natural mulch.

“If you have a pollinator garden, and you're worried about butterflies... Well, a lot of those butterfly and moth larvae, they pupate underneath those leaves and they need that leaf litter," Batty said. "So do smaller animals like turtles and frogs.”

Any excess leaf bulk can be raked into a garden bed or under a tree.

Leaving your leaves in your yard also helps to reduce the approximate 8-million tons of leaves that make it into our country's landfills every year.

“What happens when we get all those leaves in the landfill, is they degrade and they create methane gas, which is a very potent greenhouse gas," Batty explained.

“If we're composting our leaves, if we're shredding them, if we're leaving them, that doesn't happen... and it's a lot better for climate change, global warming.”

And of course, in Grand Rapids where you have to buy special yard waste bags for your leaves, this option can save you some real money.

Burning your leaves can impact air quality, while sweeping them into the roadway can be dangerous for motorcyclists driving by, and can even clog up storm drains.

So, perhaps consider leaving your leaves where they are this year.

“If you think about it, nobody rakes the forest, right? All those leaves just degrade over the course of the year, and then those plants come up just fine in the spring.”

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